A team of 24 lawyers from Israeli outfit EKT- Epstein Knoller Chomsky Osnat Gilat Tenenboim & Co (EKT), including one of the firm’s founders and ten further partners, has joined M Firon & Co, making the firm one of the five largest in Israel by headcount.

Former EKT name partner and competition expert, Eitan Epstein, and his colleagues made the switch to M Firon at the end of last year. The team has a range of specialities and a number that fit with those of M Firon, namely antitrust, corporate, M&A and project work.

Mergers between Israeli firms have become relatively commonplace in the last four years. The trend of consolidation began around the time the country’s legal market was liberalised to permit foreign firms to establish independently in the country.

Local lawyers speculate that there was some correlation between the mergers and the regulatory changes. They suspected domestic firms wanted to compete with internationals in the depth and breadth of the legal services they could offer.

While there may be some truth to this theory, in most cases the mergers were primarily driven by firms looking to strengthen ancillary practices to better compete with more diversely accomplished domestic firms. A good example being when Meitar Liquornik Geva & Leshem Brandwin and Kantor Elhanani Tal & Co combined to create the largest firm in the country in 2013. Kantor had an excellent banking practice; Meitar a market-leading corporate team. 

Other recent mergers between Israeli firms include Tadmor & Co and Yuval Levy & Co and Shibolet & Co and Ben-Zvi Attorneys at Law.

Currently only two international firms have taken advantage of the relaxed restrictions on foreign firms in Israel. Chinese outfit Yingke entered the market through a soft-merger with boutique firm Eyal Khayat Zolty Neiger & Co, while Greenberg Traurig launched independently.