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Dentons to continue its megafirm rise by merging with firms in Australia and Singapore

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Another day, another multi-firm combination for Dentons.

On Monday, Dentons and Dacheng announced it has taken the first step towards combining with Australian firm Gadens and Singaporean firm Rodyk & Davidson. According to Elliott Portnoy, global chief executive officer of Dentons, leaders at each of the four firms have approved the combination, and each firm expects to hold partnership votes by the middle of November.

“When we came together with Dacheng, we thought it was important not to just to look at China or Asia, but the entire Pacific Rim,” says Joe Andrew, Dentons global chairman. “The recent [Trans-Pacific Partnership] has eliminated more than 18,000 barriers to trade. We think the time is particularly right to expand our capabilities in the Pacific Rim and allow us to provide a higher level of service to our clients.”

Ian Clarke, national chairman of Gadens, says that the growing importance of Asia and the Pacific Rim when it comes to global trade convinced him of the need to expand his firm’s capabilities throughout the rest of the world. “We’ve known Dentons as a firm for some time,” says Clarke. “We’ve had partners working in their London office. We’re very comfortable with the firm.”

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Clarke also says that Dentons’ verein structure and polycentric philosophy were very important to him. “What your clients want is not just excellent legal service, they want to be able to deal with practitioners in other jurisdictions that are business savvy and well-connected and know how things work in that jurisdiction,” says Clarke. “Our clients look to us for legal work but they also want advice about how best to do business or make investments in those jurisdictions. With this combination, I know I’ll be able to find lawyers in those other jurisdictions that will give me the local flavor, quite apart from the legal work.”

According to Portnoy, the name of the global firm will continue to be Dentons. However, much like with Dentons Dacheng, the constituent firms will continue to have their names used in their native countries. In Australia, the firm will be known as Dentons Gadens, while in Singapore, it will be Dentons Rodyk.

“Unlike other firms, we have no headquarters, and there is no central or dominant region or location—we will be Australian in Australia just as we are African in South Africa. We don’t have one dominant culture because we don’t believe clients are seeking that kind of centralized approach. Indeed, we do business like our clients do,” says Portnoy, who expects the firm to continue growing in Asia and the Pacific Rim in the immediate future. “At the same time, while maintaining what is unique from each of the communities in which we live and work, we are focused on integration of every aspect of client service that touches the client to deliver a seamless client experience.”

The firms have already set up a website to discuss the main points of the deal, which if successful, would put 7,300 lawyers under the Dentons umbrella worldwide.

The latest tie-up caps a busy 2015 for Dentons. In January, the firm combined with Chinese powerhouse firm Dacheng to form a 6,600 lawyer law firm, making the combined entity the world’s largest law firm by headcount. Three months later, Dentons announced a merger with McKenna Long & Aldridge, and also opened an office in Budapest. More recently, the firm announced last month that it had entered the Italian market, setting up shop in Milan.

Andrew, however, stresses that this deal with Gadens and Rodyk, as well the other combinations that the firm has entered into, is not just about expanding headcount but becoming the the ultimate “yes firm.”

“Many law firms will exaggerate their capabilities to their clients and say that they can meet their clients’ demands even before the client is finished asking the question—even if they really can’t,” says Andrew. “We want our firm to have the kind of talent and depth to be able to say yes without hesitation, and mean it.”

Related article:

ABA Journal: “The Rise of the Megafirm”

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