05 January 2018

Business challenges forcing SME law firms to close their doors in the US

A number of smaller law firms are closing their doors as they struggle to compete in a challenging marketplace.

A number of SME US law firms have closed down at the end of December citing a range of reasons but mainly challenging business conditions. In Winconsin, two law firms, Peterson, Johnson & Murray and Levine & Bazelon have closed their doors with staff and lawyers joining expanding 190 lawyer von Briesen & Roper. Litigation and disputes practice Peterson, Johnson & Murray and real estate law firm Levin & Bazelon both opened 35 years ago. The entire staff of Peterson, Johnson & Murray, as well as 22 lawyers from the firm, have joined von Briesen, as have the staff and three lawyers at Levine & Bazelon, according to a statement from von Briesen. 

Business pressures

In St Louis, employment and labour law  firm Lowenbaum Law has also closed its doors. Jackson Lewis has recruited 15 of its lawyers with another two heading for the Wagner Law Group. Business pressures motivated the closure, Michael Lowenbaum told Bloomberg Law, adding that it was 'just harder and harder to compete with these national firms.' Meanwhile lawyers from Harrisburg firm Rhoads & Sinon are on the lookout for jobs. The law firm  merged into Barley Snyder after experiencing a wave of defections over the past year. Barley Snyder will open a Harrisburg office with 10 lawyers and nine other professionals from Rhoads & Sinon. 

Other closures

The number of firms taking the decision to close outright reflects the market conditions which has seen a number of law firms look for merger opportunities as well as trying to offer alternative fees to clients. Sedgwicks is the largest firm to close down after 80 years in business, having also tried to go down the merger route. Steptoe & Johnson has just announcd it has added a group of seven Sedgwick lawyers in San Francisco and Chicago to its commercial litigation practice from the soon-to-be-dissolved firm.  Retail partner Stephanie Sheridan, who founded and led Sedgwick’s retail practice group and was also managing partner of its San Francisco office, will take on the same leadership roles at Steptoe & Johnson, according to the announcement.