Resurrected merger talks show firms still indecisive

By Emma Ryan|08 June 2017

Norton Rose Fulbright and Henry Davis York have confirmed they are exploring a potential merger again, following an uncertain six-month standoff.

In November last year, Lawyers Weekly spoke to Norton Rose Fulbright and Henry Davis York after speculation that the two were about to undergo a merger plagued the profession.

At the time, the pair confirmed that while they had discussed a possible merger the move was off the cards for now.

Instead, Norton Rose Fulbright said it was focused on building out its new practice in Papua New Guinea.


“There is often market speculation about mergers in the global and Australian context. We, like many firms, are subject to such speculation from time to time. As you would expect, we often talk to people and firms in jurisdictions around the world, about all sorts of possibilities,” a spokesman for the global firm said.

“We are currently focused on building out our practice in the Asia-Pacific region, most recently in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, and are constantly evaluating different ways of doing this.”

Meanwhile, a HDY spokesperson categorically stated that it had “no plans to undertake a merger” at the time. The spokesperson did however note that “HDY, as should any law firm in the Australian legal market, talks to other firms all the time on a range of subjects”.

After what has seemed like a six-month rally of ‘will they or won’t they’, the two firms have released a joint statement confirming that a potential merger is back on the cards.

“Global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright and leading Australian law firm Henry Davis York are exploring a potential combination to create one of the largest providers of legal services in the Australian market, with leading positions in key industry sectors and practices,” a joint statement from a spokesman said.


“Partners of both firms will be considering this opportunity and making a decision in due course.”

Lawyers Weekly understands that Henry Davis York managing partner Michael Greene has returned from an overseas trip last week, where he was presumably meeting with NRF heavyweights to flesh out the detail.

According to an overseas legal publication, partners at both firms will vote on the merger by the end of winter.

Confirmation that the two firms are again in merger talks comes after Henry Davis York retrenched 25 Sydney staff members last month. Of the 25, six fee-earning lawyers were sacked.

At the time the story broke in May, Lawyers Weekly received a number of comments. Two of which confirmed that HDY had also canned its summer clerk program.

Other commenters, however, used the platform to speak about a merger between the mid-tier and NRF.

“If HDY does ultimately merge with NRF, then those who have been made redundant have probably dodged a bullet,” a commenter said.

“HDY staff had a lucky escape that there was no merger with NRF,” added another.

Resurrected merger talks show firms still indecisive
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