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March 28, 2012 6:58 PM

From Singapore to Switzerland, More Law Firm Merger Talks and Tie-Ups

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE, 3/29/12, 8:45 a.m. EDT. Information on Osborne Clarke's European mergers has been added to the twelfth paragraph of this story.

While Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy and Singapore's Allen & Gledhill may have called off discussions on a potential tie-up, other firms from Asia, Europe, and the United States have acknowledged agreements and talks with merger and alliance partners.

Sibling publication The Asian Lawyer reported this week on the decision by Allen & Overy and Allen & Gledhill to scuttle plans on forming an alliance or combining operations. The two firms had been in discussions for several months, and Allen & Gledhill formally terminated its previous joint venture agreement with Linklaters two weeks ago, according to U.K. publication Legal Week.

Elsewhere in Singapore, RHT Law agreed this month to join the international network of Anglo-British firm Taylor Wessing, according to Asian Legal Business. RHT, a 60-lawyer firm formed in May 2011 when a group of lawyers broke away from local Singapore shop KhattarWong, entered into an exclusive alliance with Taylor Wessing last September. After being absorbed into Taylor Wessing's international network this month, the Singapore firm will be called RHT Law Taylor Wessing. 

In other recent law firm merger and alliance news:

Merger talks between Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and Fulbright & Jaworski are officially off, according to the Daily Journal, a California legal publication. While a combination of the two Am Law 100 firms would have created a 1,500-lawyer shop, the Daily Journal reports that talks slowed in February over concerns about a leadership change at Fulbright and the firm's unfunded pension plan.

King & Wood Mallesons, a Chinese and Australian legal giant whose merger went live earlier this month (but which does not yet have a unified Web site), is exploring the possibility of joining forces with a Canadian firm, according to Canadian legal publication Lexpert. Canada's mining and natural resource lawyers have been on a roll this year, as noted by some of our recent reports, and the country's firms are piquing the interest of international suitors.

China's lawyers may be grappling with awkward loyalty oaths, but the country's law firms are increasingly broadening their horizons, expanding abroad through alliances with foreign counterparts. Nixon Peabody formed an alliance with the 300-lawyer Hylands Law Firm earlier this month, while another Chinese firm, Broad & Bright, has joined the MSI Global Alliance of law and accounting firms. Yet another Chinese firm, the AllBright Law Offices, has signed a cooperation agreement with Paris-based De Pardieu Brocas Maffei, according to Legal Week.

Two British firms engaged in Australian mergers are feeling some interesting side effects of those tie-ups on their current operations. Ashurst's agreement with Blake Dawson includes an option to walk away from the union in the event a U.S. firm expresses an interest in the legacy British firm but not its Aussie arm, according to Legal WeekHerbert Smith, meanwhile, is considering whether to modify its rigid lockstep compensation structure, Legal Week reports, amid its ongoing merger talks with Freehills.

Squire Sanders, which made its high-profile debut Down Under last summer, is looking to break out of its base in the west coast city of Perth by merging with a local firm in Melbourne or Sydney, according to Aussie legal publication Lawyers Weekly. One potential partner identified in the Aussie legal press is midtier firm Middletons, although its management denies any discussions with Squire Sanders, one of the few U.S. firms to join in the race to Oz.

Norton Rose, another global firm that has bolstered its Aussie operations in recent years, launched a new formal alliance in Indonesia this month with local firm Susandarini & Partners, according to Asian Legal Business. Norton Rose has plans to send three partners to work at the Jakarta-based firm, which replaces Norton Rose's previous association with local shop Brigitta Rahayoe & Partners.

London-based insurance firm Clyde & Co, which this week picked up a five-lawyer team from Tucker Ellis & West in San Francisco, announced earlier this month that it had reached an alliance agreement with Mongolian firm Khan Lex Advocates. In entering Mongolia, Clyde & Co follows a series of Australian firms that have opened offices in Ulaanbaatar to take advantage of the country's booming market for natural resources, according to New Zealand legal publication LawFuel.

British firm Osborne Clarke has dismantled its formal European alliances by merging with its Spanish and Italian arms to become a more internationally focused firm, according to Legal Week. The new firm, structured as a Swiss verein, is expected to go live in July.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report predicting a series of law firm mergers in Scotland appears to have been spot on. As The Am Law Daily has previously reported, leading Scottish firm McGrigors, along with its lonely outpost in the Falklands, agreed in February to merge with London-based Pinsent Masons. British firm DAC Beachcroft picked up 11-lawyer Scottish boutique Andersons Solicitors last week, Legal Week reports. And Maclay Murray & Spens, another top Scottish firm, had been holding merger talks with southwestern England-based Bond Pearce until both called off discussions earlier this month, according to Legal Week.

—Finally, in Switzerland, Lachenal & Le Fort and Meyerlustenberger have merged to create an 85-lawyer firm that will be one of the largest in the central European alpine nation, Legal Week reports. The new firm, called Meyerlustenberger Lachenal, will have offices in Brussels, Geneva, Lausanne, Zug, and Zurich.

 

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