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Global alliance in clients’ best interests: W+K

Global alliance in clients’ best interests: W+K

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Australian specialist insurance firm Wotton + Kearney has said its alliance with three foreign firms provides a more compelling client offering than global expansion would.

David Kearney, the firm’s chief executive partner, told Lawyers Weekly the Legalign Global alliance has been well-received by clients.

The alliance, announced in January, unites Wotton + Kearney with DAC Beachcroft in the UK, BLD Bach Langheid Dallmayr in Germany and Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker in the US. Mr Kearney said this allows the four firms to provide comprehensive service to global insurance companies.

“Globalisation is well and truly here,” he said.

“That means that in our world, in the insurance world, global insurers have global customers and they have global problems, and they’re looking for global solutions.”

Mr Kearney said the key difference between Legalign Global and other legal networks is that the four firms service the same clients.

“We do work for the same clients – that’s why its different to most legal alliances or legal networks, where they might have corporate clients. And when they have a problem in a particular region, they share or they refer clients to a lawyer in that region.

“We have common clients like Chubb and AIG, and XL Catlin and Allianz, and Zurich …  and those clients increasingly have global needs.

“There might be a cyber incident which impacts globally or there might be a product recall: say you’re insuring a Volvo or a VW in Germany and they’ve got a product recall globally, so they want legal teams globally in key jurisdictions.

“We can put together teams very quickly, but it’s actually to service common clients. So while many networks are about referring clients to other firms in other regions, what we’re about is servicing global insurers.”

When Wotton + Kearney recognised the need to expand beyond Australia’s shores, the firm considered two options, according to Mr Kearney. One was the common approach of merging with a global firm, while the other was to establish an alliance. Mr Kearney said clients have welcomed the alliance as a strong competitor to global law firms.

“It’s early days but I think, at least from what we’re hearing from our clients, they see this as a viable solution to the offering that global insurance firms bring.

“When we looked at our strategy two or three years ago and were talking to global insurers, they said to us ‘We understand that global law firms have wonderful qualities in some areas, but it’s not uniform across all jurisdictions’.

“That’s almost axiomatic in the sense that when you expand, there’s a level of expansion for expansion’s sake to say that you’re global. What [Legalign Global] is about is picking best-in-region insurance law firms and bringing them together.

A reliable source recently told Lawyers Weekly that Wotton + Kearney plans to merge with DAC Beachcroft, potentially as a precursor to a four-way merger with BLD and Wilson Elser.

However, Mr Kearney refuted this claim and said the strength of Legalign Global lies in each firm retaining its well-known brand.

“We are established brands with, we like to think, first-class reputations in our regions. And the challenge for us is now to build goodwill and build up the reputation of the brand Legalign Global as a collective.

“We appreciate that that’s a challenge but we think it’s achievable and we think that … to give up the various brand names we’ve got for a [single] brand, be it one of the four or some other name, wasn’t the right business decision and is not the right business decision.”

Rather, Mr Kearney said, the four firms are focused on sharing knowledge and talent to strengthen Legalign Global.

“The legal services market is a challenging one and we need to make sure that we’re sharing information around how we build better legal businesses and businesses which are here for the long term,” he said.

“We’ll also be looking to do more around talent-swapping and how we give opportunities to our talent to move into other jurisdictions, work there and ultimately bring the knowledge that they garner in those areas back to their region for the good of the business.”

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Global alliance in clients’ best interests: W+K
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