United States Legal Market Overview of M&A and Private Equity

Get the latest insights and trends in M&A and Private Equity sectors that the Chambers USA research team discovered during the research into the Chamber USA 2023 Guide.

Published on 11 July 2023
Written by Matthew Court
Matthew Court

Market in limbo

This year, in almost all of our conversations with senior lawyers and with senior in-house clients, we definitely get the sense that the market has entered a sort of limbo – where deals, IPOs and transactional activity is down, and bankruptcy filing volumes are only recently starting to pick up.  

“Activity levels have slowed down and the macro-environment is challenging. In the C-suite, there’s more deliberation and intentional decision making.” 

The first few months of our research showed a private equity industry that was running at full steam, but the end of 2022 saw a flatlining as interest rate hikes began to bite.

The M&A market remains quite muted, with a few notable exceptions – including Broadcom’s $61 billion acquisition of VMWare, which is expected to close this year. The equity capital markets themselves have also experienced a significant slump, with the number of IPOs – particularly high value IPOs – continuing to compare poorly with previous years.  

Client feedback

Client feedback shows corporates, ranging in size from SMEs to multinationals, instead moving with more caution and beefing up their regulatory and governance programs – and being a bit picker with their law firms. We’ve seen, especially in the transactional markets, a push towards firms attempting to distinguish themselves in the additional legal services they can provide and the value added services they can bring, outside of their technical expertise. 

This has obvious implications for boutique corporate practices with a more narrow focus – with clients demanding a fuller range of services from their external legal counsel.  

“They are not full service, they can be hit and miss.” 

It also places a premium on a lawyer and law firm’s relationship management abilities, where those soft skills are really coming to the fore in a market where the clients suddenly have all of the power.  

“It was a really unsatisfying experience where they made us as a client feel like we were just an ATM.” 

Over the several years I’ve been at Chambers, we’ve consistently heard back from clients that they reserve only their most important and complex matters for the big firms, with ever increasing amounts of more straightforward work being turned over to less expensive alternatives.  

This is the first year that this idea has really been tested, with a big group of elite firms competing for a smaller pool of deals -  so we’re interested in finding out whether this holds true as clients face continual strain on their budgets, and see what kind of services the largest law firms offer to keep ahold of clients.  


Chambers USA

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