Merrill Lynch & Co.'s municipal underwriting group finished the third quarter of 1993 in the same spot it began the quarter -- sitting in first place.

Although there was no change at the top of the bond attorney category at the end of the third quarter, there' was a new leader in financial advising, with all of the races tightening into the last quarter homestretch.

With one quarter left to go in 1993, Merrill continued its yearlong dominance over Goldman, Sachs & Co., but the lead has considerably narrowed, according to Securities Data Co.

For the year, Merrill has served as senior manager for $25.9 billion of municipal debt for 311 issues. The amount represents 11.8% of the total market share.

Goldman Sachs maintained its second place spot by underwriting $24.8 billion of municipal debt for the year. That is 11.3% of the total long-term issuance.

Before the first quarter of this year, Goldman Sachs had been the top underwriter of municipal debt since the end of 1990.

At the end of the second quarter, it looked as though Merrill Lynch would run away with first place for the year. The firm had underwritten 12.9% of the issues with Goldman Sachs at 11.4%.

For the year, Lehman Brothers maintained its spot as the third busiest underwriter. Lehman had underwritten $16.3 billion of bonds in 321 issues. That represented 7.4% of the total dollar volume.

Lehman's 321 issues were the largest number of individual issues sold by a single underwriter.

Specifically, Merrill Lynch was ranked first in general obligation sales and insured deals. It was also ranked first in the number of competitive deals won.

Goldman, however, was first in sales of revenue bond issues, taxable sales, and refundings. It was also ranked first in negotiated sales.

Seattle-Northwest Securities Corp. was the top-ranked senior manager in the sale of bank-qualified deals. The firm served as senior manager for $537 million of bank-qualified sales in 145 issues.

The race for the top slot in managing short-term issues continued to be led by Lehman Brothers.

Lehman had been senior manager of $8.5 billion in short-term debt. That figure represents 22.5% of the total market. The firm easily outpaced second-place Goldman, which had underwritten $5.4 billion of notes, or 14.3% of the total issuance.

In the category of financial advising, Public Financial Management, Inc. wrested the top slot away from Public Resources Advisory Group.

The two firms have been in a close battle for the top position on the charts all year. But by the end of the third quarter, Public Financial had served as financial adviser for $13.8 billion of municipal debt in 246 issues. The firm has served as adviser for 6.3% of the deals that used a financial adviser.

Public Resources Advisory Group has served as financial adviser for $13.2 billion over 107 issues, or 6.0% of the market share.

Third and fourth place in advising also changed hands during the. quarter.

For the first half of 1993, Lazard Freres & Co. was third and O'Brien Partners Inc. was fourth.

By the end of the third quarter, the two firms had switched places, with O'Brien Partners logging in at third and serving as adviser for $8.49 billion of bonds, while Lazard served as adviser on the sale of $8.43 billion of municipal debt.

The law firm of Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, Alexander & Ferdon maintained its lead as the top bond counsel for the year over Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

But, as in the other categories, the race for the top slot for bond counsels has tightened. So far in 1993, Mudge Rose has served as bond counsel for $15.94 billion of bond sales and Orrick Herrington has been bond counsel for $15.82 billion.

The New York law firm of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood placed third.

Since 1989, Orrick Herrington has been the top bond counsel.

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