James P. Weaver is an associate in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, PC. James can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mergers between and among law firms, historically rare occurrences, are becoming commonplace. Firms of all sizes must be competitive, and that’s often accomplished by combining resources to expand in size, service areas, and geographic locations.
Mergers are often good business decisions for law firms, but in the short term they can make young attorneys feel vulnerable.
Because each situation is different, there is no set approach for successfully navigating a merger. You can, however, take steps to improve your chances of surviving the merger and also to discover personal opportunities at the new firm. Following are a few tips based on my experience and that of several colleagues.
Give the merger a chance. Don’t rush to judgment; give the merger time to play out before deciding whether it will have a positive effect on your career. If merging made business sense, there must be opportunities for cross-selling, growth, and client development at the new firm. Worrying about what might happen before the dust settles may cause you to miss an open door of opportunity.
Ask questions and get the facts. When the merger is announced within your firm, you will have a lot of questions regarding its potential impact on you, the firm, and clients. If possible, direct your questions to key attorneys within the firm who were involved in the merger. Nothing fuels feelings of uncertainty and vulnerability more than not knowing what’s going to happen. Don’t listen to the rumors, get the facts.
Show initiative and meet lawyers from the other firm. Don’t wait for a social event or office relocation to start meeting attorneys and professionals from the other firm. The firm’s web site likely describes its areas of practice and its attorneys; identify those who practice in your area of law or to whom you may cross-sell your services. Arrange for one-on-one meetings whenever possible to get acquainted. Being proactive can help you to get work assignments and/or internal referrals for your services.
Speak and write. Writing about and giving presentations on your area of practice will allow you to quickly introduce your skills to your new colleagues and strengthen your visibility within the firm. Volunteer to give a presentation during your monthly practice section meeting or local bar association meeting, to write articles for trade or legal publications, or to author an article or advisory for your firm’s client newsletter. This is also a way to make the new firm known to your existing clients and remind them that additional services are available to them post-merger.
Be creative—think like an entrepreneur. Growing law firms value associates who demonstrate creativity and entrepreneurialism. Watch for opportunities to either cross-sell your services to existing clients or market your niche to potential new clients. The potential to cross-sell grows exponentially when firms first merge because a new pool of clients and practice areas is available to draw upon.
• How to Start and Build a Law Practice, 5th ed. 2004. PC # 5110508. Law Practice Management Section, Law Student Division.