One of the initiatives we undertake here at the ILN is marketing partnerships, where we arrange for an in-kind trade of services for various events in the legal industry. When the events are fairly local to me, I’ll go in person to "woman" the table with our materials, answer any questions that might arise, and also sit in on the sessions. 

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in two such events. The first of these was American Lawyer Media’s Cross Border M&A Forum – right up our alley, since much of the work that happens in the ILN is cross-border. 

I’ll re-cap a couple of the sessions, along with those from the following day’s conference, ALM’s Cross-Border Litigation Forum. 


Combination Strategies Across Borders – Keys to Growth in a Multi-Polar World

The first session of the morning was a keynote speech from Ben Gomes-Casseres, a professor of International Business and the Director of the MBA Program at Brandeis International Business School. Interestingly, Mr. Gomes-Casseres was suffering from back problems, and so instead of presenting to us in person, he presented via Skype. It was a great use of technology! 

Gomes-Casseres began by introducing himself, saying that he’s well-placed in today’s world, because he grew up in a multicultural, multipolar world with many different influences.

The main theme of his talk was that we’re seeing the changing borders of countries as countries’ roles in the world are changing. All countries have their own local players for companies – either as competitors, potential merger partners, or others, and it’s the attorneys’ role to help create the environment where these legal structures can flourish. Gomes-Casseres clarified that the attorneys don’t just help their clients to avoid legal pitfalls when doing cross-border work; in order to help them succeed, they need to help them integrate locally. For more information, take a look at the paper that he co-authored, which he shared with us. 

Cross-Border Acquisitions: Is the US Losing in the Market for Corporate Control? 

The next session was with Ken Smith, the Associate Dean of Executive Programs and Associate Professor of the Department of Business at the University of Guelph.   He had undertaken research to answer four questions: 

  1. Are Canadian and US companies competitive in M&A internationally? 
  2. What is the impact of increased international M&A activity?
  3. Should Canada and the US be more ambitious outside of North America? 
  4. Are corporations playing on a level playing field? 

Losing Control

This first question really has the subtext of asking – are we losing control? Smith says the answer is yes. Global industry restructuring is being led by Europe – he showed a slide on the change of ownership control: 

Following this, we looked at a slide that showed that US deal flow is negative when deal volumes are highest. This is true in Canada as well: 

Is the exchange rate the cause of this? Smith says no: 

Missed Opportunity or Risky Business? 

Smith looked at this question through Canadian data, saying that it’s easier to see looking at a smaller economy. Canada is losing the most in their historic strengths, like natural resources. However, the financial industry remains strong, because it’s a protected industry in Canada: 

In the US, we’re losing in almost all sectors – the biggest is consumer non-cyclicals.

To think about the economic impact, you have to get past an individual transaction. This is about balance, and the implications of extreme imbalance – there are three layers. 

  1. At the company level, you’ll see the loss of headquarter jobs, and the professional services firms that support headquarters (like law firms). 
  2. At the industry level, you’ll see a loss of consolidators and a weakening of industry clusters. 
  3. At the community level, you’ll see a loss of community leaders and donations, and ultimately a reduced attractiveness as a financial center. 

So, looking ahead, should we be more ambitious? 

"…could have been a contender" 

Smith said we are likely to go into another M&A boom sooner rather than later, and the focus will be mostly international. 50% of deals are now cross-border – that’s a number that’s too large to ignore. Also, this speaks to how big your company needs to be to be competitive, and what kind of global scope you need – are you playing in the game? 


Smith said that buyers are creating value, and showed a slide of average deal returns in the EU: 

However, US deal performance is historically weak: 

Smith finished up in this section saying that consolidation deals pay off the least well of any kinds of transactions, across the board. 

Key messages

Then we moved on to his key messages: 

  • CEOs need to improve deal performance. How can they do this? 
    • Focus on deal logic: identify path to long-term strategic value. 
    • Align organization and culture: integrate structure, process, systems and culture. 
    • Manage to completion: accelerate transition and act on strategic potential. 

      The lesson here is that CEOs need to learn some new skills to be effective in cross-border deals. 

  • Policy makers to ensure a level playing field: 
    • Drive market opening, but don’t take a long lead. 
    • Ensure domestic regulation (competition policy, securities law, etc) is designed in international context. 
    • Support global growth. 
  • Boards need to take the long view: 
    • Easy to sell for a premium. 
    • Those leading global industry restructuring earning many time such one-time sale premiums. 
    • In either case: 
      • Ensure a global perspective in planning. 
      • Know the value of your plan. 
      • Be strategic (vs reactive) in buy or sell decisions. 

Competitiveness is going to demand greater scale and scope, and so far, we’re not doing that well. 

Then it was time for some audience questions. An audience member asked Smith to comment on what has caused US troubles. He said that there has been insensitivity to culture (something I’ve actually seen happen). Additionally, domestic transactions have been predominantly about cost-cutting and consolidation, which makes it hard to create value. 

An Israeli lawyer in the audience commented that anecdotally, he’s seen a lot of technology deals by US companies with Israeli companies. He questioned whether the research’s results were skewed because they cut off less costly deals. The speaker said he did look at some lower cut-offs in the US and Canada, and while he didn’t see that the trends would be different in the US and Canada, they might be in other markets. 

Thanks to ALM for a fascinating event! 

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Lindsay Griffiths Lindsay Griffiths

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the…

Lindsay Griffiths is the International Lawyers Network’s Executive Director. She is a dynamic, influential international executive and marketing thought leader with a passion for relationship development and authoring impactful content. Griffiths is a driven, strategic leader who implements creative initiatives to achieve the goals of a global professional services network. She manages all major aspects of the Network, including recruitment, member retention, and providing exceptional client service to an international membership base.

In her role as Executive Director, Griffiths manages a mix of international programs, engages a diverse global community, and develops an international membership base. She leads the development and successful implementation of major organizational initiatives, manages interpersonal relationships, and possesses executive presence with audiences of internal and external stakeholders. Griffiths excels at project management, organization, and planning, writes and speaks with influence and authority, and works independently while demonstrating flexibility in thinking, especially in challenging situations. She also adapts to diverse and dynamic environments with constant assessment and recalibration.

JD Supra Readers Choice Top Author 2019

In 2021, the ILN was honored as Global Law Firm Network of the Year by The Lawyer European Awards, and in 2016, 2017, and 2022, they were shortlisted as Global Law Firm Network of the Year. Since 2011, the Network has been listed as a Chambers & Partners Leading Law Firm Network, recently increasing this ranking to be included in the top two percent of law firm networks globally, as well as adding two regional rankings. She was awarded “Thought Leader of the Year” by the Legal Marketing Association’s New York chapter in 2014 for her substantive contributions to the industry and was included in Clio’s list of “34 People in Legal You Should Follow on Twitter.” She was also chosen for the American Bar Association Journal’s inaugural Web 100‘s Best Law Blogs, where judge Ivy Grey said “This blog is outstanding, thoughtful, and useful.” Ms. Griffiths was chosen as a Top Author by JD Supra in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, for the level of engagement and visibility she attained with readers on the topic of marketing & business development. She has been the author of Zen & the Art of Legal Networking since February 2009.