26/04/2012 - 09:42

Lawyers find new ways to link firms

26/04/2012 - 09:42

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Lawyers find new ways to link firms

AUSTRALIAN law firm Allens Arthur Robinson has added to the extraordinary variety in the Australian legal sector by finding a new way to come together with its international partner.

In Perth this week to promote his firm’s ‘integrated alliance’ with prestigious London firm Linklaters, Allens chief executive partner Michael Rose insisted it was not a stepping stone to a full merger.

“This, we think, is the optimum structure,” Mr Rose said.

Under the alliance the two firms will retain their independence and separate branding, though the Australian firm will change its name to Allens and use ‘Allens Linklaters’ signage.

Mr Rose said he had been in informal discussions with Linklaters for some years, but that “we started talking in earnest about five or six months ago”.

Linklaters chairman Robert Elliott said the firm already had 130 clients in Australia, with about 80 of those shared with Allens.

The two firms last worked together as advisers to Rio Tinto on its defence against rival iron ore giant BHP Billiton.

“Australia is an important market, especially with the resources sector here,” Mr Elliott said.

He said the firm’s Australian clients were fairly evenly split between resources sector in WA and the finance sector on the east coast.

Mr Rose said Perth had important international links of two kinds – international firms looking to invest in WA projects, and local businesses becoming increasingly global in their aspirations.

The links between the two firms mean Allens will become the alliance partner of Linklaters in Australia, and Linklaters will become Allens’ alliance partner elsewhere in the world.

In addition, the two firms will establish joint ventures in Asia.

One will be in Indonesia, for regulatory reasons, and a second will focus on energy and resources and infrastructure work across the region.

“We will pool resources in that space across Asia, as if we were merged,” Mr Rose said.

“The guiding principle will be what’s best for the client.”

Mr Rose insisted that financial integration was not needed to achieve a full alignment of the two firms.

The Linklaters alliance brings to nine the number of international law firms that have established a formal presence in Perth in the past two and a half years.

Fellow ‘magic circle’ firms Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance chose different paths.

Allen & Overy recruited a team of lawyers from Clayton Utz in Sydney and Perth, while Clifford Chance acquired boutique corporate law firms Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Perth and Chang, Pistilli & Simmons in Sydney.

That instantly gave them a fully integrated presence in the two markets of most interest to them, but on a small scale.

English firm Ashurst has absorbed leading Australian firm Blake Dawson, while Norton Rose was the first mover when it absorbed Deacons.

In addition, Chinese firm King & Wood merged earlier this year with Mallesons Stephen Jacques, with the two now trading under a combined name.

Most of these firms have not yet moved to full financial integration but plan to do so.

 

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