Tools and strategies for smooth integration in M&A

Tuesday 15 November, 2022

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As two rivers merge, it looks from above like two streams are simply becoming one. Beneath the surface, though, there’s far more going on. There are six activity zones in a river confluence, caused by the flow and interaction of the two waters. If you’re interested, those zones are ‘stagnation’, ‘flow deflection’, ‘separation’, ‘shear layers’, ‘maximum velocity’, and ‘flow recovery’.

Merging law firms are much the same. There’s a lot of work and activity going on behind the scenes, but on the surface, it looks like two practices simply, naturally, and undramatically becoming one. Or at least that’s the aspiration.

Here’s our guide to smooth integration for merging law firms.

The level and nature of the integration

All of your actions and choice about this integration should be governed by the true nature of your merger. Is it a merger or an acquisition? Are the firms integrating, or will two brands become one? If one brand, is it a new brand, or will one cease to exist? Those answers will inform everything about how you conduct the merger and what your strategies are working towards.

Conflict checks

With all of your new clients, you will of course have performed a lot of conflict checks to make your job easy and to stay on the right side of the regulators. Now you’re faced with having to do the same for the clients you have or will have taken on. While the process might be broadly the same, your organic growth would bring in clients more gradually, whereas now you’re adopting a whole firm’s worth in one go. That’s a lot of due diligence.

That volume of work is going to be an enormous burden if you and your team take it on unaided, and aside from being exhausting, there’s more scope to miss something. If you have a compliance tool to assist you, you not only get through the process more quickly, you can dramatically reduce or even eliminate the risk of human error.

Client communication

Each of the new firm’s clients will be used to the communication methods and style of one of the old two firms. The new firm will also have to agree internally how it now manages and interacts with its clients, and for those who need to adapt their style and methods, old habits die hard. Of course, you don’t want the change to be jarring or alarming for clients either.

A client portal makes the new model easier for both sides. When you have central hub for updates and a repository for information, that’s a clear and unambiguous focal point. It doesn’t allow any confusion to creep in as to how the firm or fee earners should communicate with clients. Everything is highly visible and best practice is unmistakably defined.


It’s not just two firms merging, it’s also two cultures. The practices will each have their own preferences and processes for legal and business matters, and there will probably be some degree of negotiation, and definitely some adaptation.

Either one firm is going to adopt the other’s new culture, or there will be a new integrated one. Whichever it is, that transition is going to be far smoother and more sustainable if it’s properly supported. Working methods and culture are often deeply embedded, and a sudden change is far from easy. Those who are adapting to new frameworks and methods will find it easier to follow and stick to a new way of working when a practice management and case management tool is guiding and assisting them.

Uniting systems

Reflecting the merger itself, one firm is either going to adopt the legal software of the other, or the new post-merger firm will adopt a platform that’s new to both former practices. Either way, there will have to be a data migration, and if that were to go wrong, it could mean disaster. At best, there’d be hours or days of delays for the firm’s work, which is not just a commercial irritation, but could also mean missing legal or compliance deadlines. At worse, it could mean the loss of case and client data, from which it would be near impossible to recover.

You need expert assistance for that kind of transfer. Fortunately, Insight Legal has performed over 600 data migrations. We design and complete bespoke data conversion procedures, testing and completing multiple layers of trial conversions with live data. That to ensures that all end-users can meaningfully test a new system, and that the final conversion will operate fully and successfully.

Over 600 law firms have used us for their data migrations, and over 1,000 manage their workflows, their client communications, and their compliance through us. Spend just half an hour taking a demo of our system, and you’ll see how to make any merger as calm as two gentle rivers trickling into one.