International Law

UK & Australia Firms Mull Megamergers to Amp Up in Asia


A planned 2010 merger of London-based Norton Rose with Australia’s Deacons law firm is giving their competitors on both continents considerable food for thought.

Together, the Norton Rose-Deacons combination will have some 1,500 lawyers, but the major import of the planned merger is the head start it could provide for aggressive expansion in Asia, reports the American Lawyer.

The BigLaw legal market in Australia, which until recently had been regarded by global legal partnerships as something of a law firm backwater, offers not only multicultural and multilingual expertise and geographic proximity to Asia, but lower costs: Associates at some large Australian firms earn as little as $50,000, the legal publication reports.

The struggling global economy put an end to merger talks between Clifford Chance and Mallesons Stephen Jaques that could have created a 4,000-attorney international law firm, Mallesons chief executive partner Robert Milliner tells American Lawyer. But other such combinations of London- and Australia-based law firms may be on the horizon, the magazine says.

While Australian law firms could, of course, amp up in Asia on their own–as some, such as 1,000-attorney Mallesons are already doing–many instead will opt to merge with major United Kingdom- and United States-based international partnerships, following the Deacons lead, predicts Peter Martyr, the chief executive of Norton Rose.

“This is an early play for us to gain a weight of people and resources in that part of the world,” he says of the impact he expects the merger with Deacons to have on his firm’s practice in Asia.

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