What Does a Mergers and Acquisitions Attorney Do? | BCGSearch.com

What Does a Mergers and Acquisitions Attorney Do?


Print/Download PDF

Font Size

Rate this article

39 Reviews Average: 4 out of 5

Corporations are forever merging with another company or acquiring another business. The mergers and acquisitions (M&A) lawyer is at the heart of these complicated transactions.

Mergers and Acquisitions

These two transactions are not the same. A merger occurs when two business entities of similar size join together to conduct business as a single entity. The merged company's stock is issued, and the formerlyseparate companies' stock is surrendered. A recent example of a merger is Fiat Chrysler and PSA Peugeot creating the new automaker Stellantis.
  An acquisition occurs when one company takes over another and becomes the owner. The acquired company legally ceases to exist because it is absorbed into the acquiring business.

They can also be distinguished by whether the transaction was friendly or not. An amicable transaction is likely a merger, but an acquisition is often hostile.

Types of Mergers

Merger types vary depending on the original companies' business practices.


The two merging business entities compete against each other, with similar products or services and the same markets. The merger of Hewlett-Packard and Compaq is an example.


A company and supplier's unificationis a vertical merger, e.g., a bicycle tire supplier merging with a bicycle manufacturer.


This involves two businesses with the same consumers served differently. An example is asmartphone manufacturer and a cell service provider.


The two businesses have little to no overlap in customers or products, or services.

Regulation of Mergers

The government has always considered competition among businesses to be a fundamental cornerstone of public policy.

To ensure fair competition, Congress has enacted several laws regulating antitrust activity, and these laws directly impact mergers. They prohibit unlawful mergers that illegally limit competition and outlaw practices like price-fixing and monopolies.
The antitrust laws also create private rights of action.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is charged with civil enforcement of antitrust laws. The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice prosecutes criminal violations.

Careers for Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyers

The options are nearly endless for lawyers specializing in mergers and acquisitions.


These M&A attorneys work for corporations and other business entities, which continually consider mergers and acquisitions.

M&A lawyers have two significant responsibilities when working for a corporation: merger transactions and regulatory compliance.

Merger Transactions

For example, suppose the firm wants to grow its business by acquiring another. In that case, the M&A lawyer helps protect their company's interest as the merger or acquisition proceeds. Other day-to-day duties include conducting due diligence, gathering relevant documents, negotiating all kinds of details, and drafting formal agreements. As the deal nears closing, the M&A attorney finalizes contracts, checks that closing conditions are satisfied, and gathers necessary signatures for relevant documents.

It's also possible another company wants to buy the firm employing the M&A attorney. In that case, the lawyer keeps a laser focus on assuring that the firm is entering a fair deal that protects its rights.

Regulatory Compliance

The FTC heavily regulates mergers and acquisitions. When the FTC believes that a corporation's merger plans may violate the law, it tries to get voluntary compliance by offering to enter into a consent order with the corporation. This order is an agreement by the company that it will cease any disputed practices or eliminate unlawful anti-competitive provisions of the proposed merger. A company that signs a consent order is not required to admit any violations or potential violations of the law.

As part of this process, the FTC may issue a Civil Investigative Demand (CID), a subpoena seeking information relevant to the FTC's investigation.

Suppose the FTC can't reach an agreement with the investigated company. In that case, it may file an administrative complaint or pursue injunctive relief in federal court.

The M&A attorney works diligently to ensure that any planned mergers comply with antitrust law. However, if the FTC does launch an investigation into the lawyer's company, that M&A attorney tries as hard as possible to avoid litigation. So, the attorney is involved in every step of an FTC investigation or enforcement action. They work with the agency to negotiate a consent decree and respond to any CIDs.

However, suppose the FTC's enforcement action goes to court. In that case, the M&A attorney, who is a transactions specialist, generally coordinates a transition of the case to a litigation attorney.


Another avenue for an M&A lawyer is to work for the FTC. In that agency, they would investigate proposed mergers, negotiate consent orders, and issue CIDs.


Alternatively, the M&A attorney can work for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor. These M&A prosecutors draft criminal complaints against companies engaged in merger transactions that violate antitrust law. After the complaint is filed, the defendant corporation appears before a federal magistrate judge in U.S. District Court.

The defendant corporation will likely file pretrial motions, such as motions to dismiss, for change of venue, and to suppress evidence. The M&A prosecutor files responses to these motions and may argue against them in a hearing.
Attorneys from both sides will likely discuss a plea deal. If these negotiations fail, the prosecutor will prosecute the defendant company at trial. This will include jury selection, presenting an opening argument, calling witnesses, offering evidence, and making a closing argument in favor of a guilty verdict.

Criminal Defense

A criminal defense attorney specializing in mergers and acquisitions defends the accused corporation in court. The process (preliminary hearing, motions filed, plea negotiations, and perhaps even trial) is essentially the same as described in the M&A prosecutor's job description above.

Plaintiff's Attorney

Federal antitrust law creates private rights of action for those associated with or impacted by mergers and acquisitions:

"A [corporation or person]shall be entitled to sue for and have injunctive relief, in any court of the United States having jurisdiction over the parties, against threatened loss or damage by a violation of the antitrust laws."

This provision causes no end of litigation between companies engaged in merger or acquisition discussions. An M&A plaintiff's attorney represents companies or individuals in lawsuits against other parties involved in the transaction.
The lawyer's duties include filing the lawsuit, preparing discovery requests, and conducting depositions. Concurrently, or later, the M&A attorney will likely enter into settlement negotiations, which can be court-supervised, or through private mediators or arbitrators.

If a settlement is not possible, then the attorney will represent their client at trial.

Civil Defense

The M&A lawyer specializing in civil defense deals with the FTC and its concerns and investigations regarding the lawyer's client company.

They receive and respond to the agency's CIDs and negotiate with the FTC to narrow the subpoena's scope.

If the FTC is satisfied with the M&A attorney's response, it may close the investigation. Or, it may continue its inquiry and offer settlement negotiations. The M&A attorney represents the target corporation in these negotiations.

If settlement discussions fail, then the FTC will likely pursue injunctive relief or other remedies in federal court. The proceedings in this civil action are the same as any civil lawsuit. The M&A attorney drafts pleadings, files motions,and attends settlement negotiations, possibly including formal mediation or arbitration. If a settlement is still not forthcoming, then the M&A defense lawyer represents the defendant corporation at trial.

Alternatively, the civil defense lawyer specializing in mergers and acquisitions defends private clients against lawsuits filed by the plaintiff's attorney, as described above.

How Do I Become a Mergers and Acquisitions Lawyer?

Interested individuals can take several steps to pursue a career as a mergers and acquisitions lawyer. First, they can pursue a bachelor's degree in business. Second, before law school, they can get work experience at either the FTC or a large corporation and work in the mergers and acquisitions department. Armed with this education and experience, and after attending law school and passing the bar, the interested individual should find many employment opportunities as a mergers and acquisitions attorney.

About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

Article Categories

AGREE/DISAGREE? SHARE COMMENTS ANONYMOUSLY! We Want to Hear Your Thoughts! Tell Us What You Think!!

Related Articles

We've changed thousands of lives over the past 20 years, and yours could be next.

When you use BCG Attorney Search you will get an unfair advantage because you will use the best legal placement company in the world for finding permanent law firm positions.