The new year marks a new chapter for one of South Carolina’s largest law firms, as a nearly 50-year-old practice comes under out-of-state ownership.
The acquisition of Columbia-based McNair Law Firm PA by Alabama's Burr & Forman LLP will be finalized by early Wednesday.
The deal, which reflects the consolidation trend within the legal industry, was announced Nov. 1. Financial terms were not disclosed.
McNair, which was started in 1971 by the late former Gov. Robert McNair, describes itself as being positioned at "the intersection of business and government." It has more than 80 lawyers in six South Carolina offices and one Charlotte outpost.
The merged firm will be headquartered in Birmingham, with more than 350 attorneys in 19 locations across eight states. The seven newly acquired offices in the Carolinas will operate as Burr Forman McNair for two years.
When it announced the tie-up, Burr & Forman said the deal complemented its existing expertise while deepening its "bench" in key practice areas, such as manufacturing, transportation, banking, public finance, intellectual property, real estate, food and beverage, hospitality and health care.
David Tigges, managing shareholder of McNair, is joining Burr & Forman’s executive committee and will be managing partner for the Carolinas starting Tuesday.
The six South Carolina offices are in Bluffton, Charleston, Columbia, Greenville, Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach.
Tigges has said that McNair felt the urge to expand further beyond its home state, where it's now competing for business with larger regional and global players, such as Shumaker Loop & Kendrick and K&L Gates.
Burr & Forman, which has been around for more than a century, has been in an expansion mode. Before the McNair deal, it had grown to 300 attorneys working from 12 offices in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
The McNair acquisition fills a gap in the Birmingham firm's footprint by giving it an instant established presence in the South Carolina. The deal expected to boost its annual billings by about 29 percent to $190 million, according to Law.com.
As in many other businesses, consolidation has been reshaping the legal industry as firms look to expand their geographic reach, increase revenue and reduce costs by joining larger practices with greater economies of scale. In 2017, law firm acquisitions hit an all-time high of 102, up from the previous record of 91 set in 2015, according to Altman Weil Inc.’s MergerLine.
A recent South Carolina example was engineered by Columbia-based Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, the largest law firm headquartered in the state. It bought Florida's 150-lawyer Broad and Cassel in August.