28/06/2012 - 17:27

Freehills and Herbert Smith confirm merger

28/06/2012 - 17:27


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Freehills' Tony Van Merwyk and Dave Jenkins.

Australian law firm Freehills and English firm Herbert Smith announced today that their partners have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger to create a new firm that will trade as Herbert Smith Freehills.

The firms will undertake a full equity merger, with a single profit pool from day one. Launch of the firm is targeted for 1 October 2012.

The two firms have previously confirmed they were in merger discussions.

The merged firm will have 2,800 lawyers - with 1,600 from Herbert Smith and 1,200 from Freehills - and 460 partners, making it the world’s eighth largest based on total lawyer numbers.

It will have 20 offices in Australia, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the UK.

Joint CEOs David Willis and Gavin Bell and partners from both firms, will sit on a global governing council, while partners and COOs from both firms will form a global executive

The merger adds to a flurry of transactions that has seen ten international law firms move into the Australian market in the past two-and-a-half years.

The more recent moves have included Allens joining up with English firm Linklaters, and Mallesons merging with Chinese firm King & Wood.

Other English firms to have moved into the local market include Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy, Ashurst and Norton Rose.

These transactions mean that six of the top ten firms in Perth, ranked by WA Business News' Book of Lists, will be part of an international firm.

The exceptions are Perth-based firms Jackson McDonald and Lavan Legal, and Australian firms Clayton Utz and Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

Freehills has for many years been the largest firm in Perth, with 192 legal staff.

The merged Herbert Smith Freehills will be organised around global practice groups.  

Herbert Smith's David Willis said in a statement: "We are excited about bringing together two pre-eminent law firms to create a new and distinctive global law firm.  We share with Freehills a strong belief that over the next few years the market for premium legal services will become increasingly dominated by a small number of truly global firms.  This merger will therefore put us in a strong position to provide clients with the single global offering they increasingly demand."

Freehills' Gavin Bell said: "The merger will give Herbert Smith Freehills the platform to become the leading global law firm across Asia Pacific, a region likely to see continued substantial growth and to become an increasingly important part of the global legal services market.  Establishing from day one a single, integrated firm will give all partners the incentive to work together toward a set of shared goals and ensure a seamless service to clients."

The plan for a full equity merger from day one contrasts with the staged mergers planned by several other firms.





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