Allens Arthur Robinson, a 190-year- old Australian law firm, and Linklaters LLP, a London-based firm with 2,200 lawyers, agreed on an alliance to compete internationally with local firms that have grown after combining with foreign ones.
AAR, to be named Allens, and Linklaters will operate independently although they’ve agreed on joint ventures in Asia, including a joint practice in Indonesia, with Widyawan & Partners, Michael Rose, Allens’ chief executive partner, said in a phone interview. The alliance will take effect May 1.
Australian law firms are tying up with international firms to gain access to global legal business as U.K. and U.S. firms seek to operate in the growing Asian market. Chinese attorneys are also looking for international tie ups to expand. China’s King & Wood merged with Australia’s Mallesons Stephen Jaques on March 1 to create Asia’s biggest law firm, while London-based Norton Rose combined with Deacons Australia in 2010.
“We concluded a merger wasn’t something we should be pursuing,” Rose said. “We’re really conscious of our history.”
Allens began in 1822 when George Allen opened a law firm in Sydney known as Allen, Allen and Hemsley. The firm merged with Arthur Robinson and Hedderwicks in 2001 to form Allens Arthur Robinson.
The firm sought a broader international reach because of changing trade and investment flows, Rose said. While most offshore business coming into Australia 10 years ago was from the U.K., U.S. and Japan, that has changed recently and now includes the Middle East, Russia and India in addition to companies and sovereign funds, he said.
“The firms are a very good fit,” Linklaters’ senior partner Robert Elliott said in a statement, referring to his firm allying with Allens. “By combining our resources and aligning our supporting processes we will be able to enhance and expand what we can do for our clients.”
Allens, with 800 lawyers in 14 offices in Asia and Australia, has been the legal adviser to 77 of the top 100 publicly traded companies in Australia, according to the firm’s website. It was named the Australian law firm of the year in 2011 in the Chambers Asia-Pacific 2012 guide.
Linklaters had coordinated News Corp. (NWSA)’s inquiry into alleged criminal behavior in the U.K. phone-hacking scandal that resulted in the closing of the News of the World newspaper and the resignation of James Murdoch as chairman of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.
The law firm had an 11-year joint venture with Allen & Gledhill LLP in Singapore, which was terminated last month.
“Every large law firm must have an international strategy, whether it’s a merger, or a relationship in some form,” Chris Freeland, the national managing partner at Baker & McKenzie LLP’s Australian practice, said in an interview last year.
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