Tombstones for a law firm

As if the recent bankruptcy of one investment bank and hasty sale of another wasn’t disruptive enough to current deal flow, we now have yet another major M&A adviser headed toward breakup. Only this time, it’s a law firm: Heller Ehrman indicated that it will dissolve on Friday. Unlike the banks, however, the winding down of Heller Ehrman was not caused by the current upheaval on Wall Street. Instead, the San Francisco-based law firm, which traces its roots back to 1890, has been slumping since the end of last year, as partners defected amid a slight dip in revenue in 2007.

Like its financial brethren, Heller Ehrman had clients across industries, with a significant technology practice. The firm worked on 42 tech deals last year, including IronPort Systems’ $830m sale to Cisco in January, Hewlett-Packard’s $1.6bn purchase of Opsware, Autonomy Corp’s $375m acquisition of Zantaz and the $200m leveraged buyout of Embarcadero Technologies. Overall, Heller Ehrman tied for fourth-busiest law firm in terms of tech deals, according to our rankings.

Legal league tables, 2007 deal volume

Rank Firm Number of transactions
1 DLA Piper 63
2 Cooley Godward 61
3 Jones Day 57
4 (tie) Heller Ehrman/O’Melveny & Myers 42

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase