Mergers Increase Profitability–But For Whom?

A recent study by consulting firm Altman Weil concludes that large firm merger mania is increasing profits at AmLaw 100/200 firms. At the same time, advancing to partnership has become more difficult at most major firms. If the number of equity partners at large firms is growing more slowly than the overall growth in headcount, then increased profitability may have as much to do with the pie being split amongst fewer partners as it has to do with the “success” of these mergers.

If I were conducting the study, I would take into account any changes in the partnership ranks at merging firms vs. non-merging firms. My understanding is that when firms merge, part of the deal often involves deequitizing some of the less profitable partners. Therefore, if you don’t control for this factor, I think it is hard to conclude that merging is for the greater good. It may very well be the case; but this study doesn’t prove it.

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