The UK can now boast its first big successful pitch into the Australian legal market after Deacons announced late Tuesday that it will join international legal practice Norton Rose Group.
The move, to take effect from 1 January 2010, follows a positive vote from the Deacons partnership late last week which will see Norton Rose consolidate an Asia-Pacific region presence with one of Australia's largest mid-tier firms.
Expected to have a turnover over of about $864 million - with an excess of 1800 fee earners in total and 29 offices worldwide - the new Norton Rose Group joins together offices from Bangkok, Beijing, Brisbane, Canberra, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Melbourne, Perth, Shanghai Singapore, Sydney and Tokyo.
It's a positive sign for the Asia-Pacific region, with Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr indicating that when the global economy picks up again, he believes the Asia Pacific region will be at its core.
"The economic influence in the world is moving eastwards and, in order to develop our business, we needed a significant expansion in our resources in the Asia-Pacific," he said.
Martyr will lead the merged group, with Deacons' Australia chief executive partner, Don Boyd to act as his deputy group.
Boyd told Lawyers Weekly Wednesday morning that the amalgamation was a good indication of what Australian law firms could offer on the global stage. "If you look at it in the broader Asia-Pacific region, then Australian law firms have some significant competitive advantage in that they are already practising in those areas," he said.
Deacons staff who were not involved in the partnership vote were informed of the decision Tuesday.
Boyd said that although staff members were surprised, there was little concern expressed, nor was there anything for staff to be concerned about.
"There was a great deal of euphoria around the firm last night and today," he said. "It means a lot if you are a young lawyer. There is now enormous potential for secondment to other offices."
With regards to Deacons Australia's long-term relationship with Deacons Hong Kong, Boyd said ties would be cut, but that the decision taken was amicable. "We've agreed to end that and go our own way. That will take some time, which is one of the reasons we're not commencing with this until next year. It was entirely friendly. We have had a 17-year relationship which worked well.
"We have different strategies going forward but neither is right or wrong. Our [strategy] is to adopt a more international approach by merging and Hong Kong has a much more specific Hong Kong/China approach."
- Angela Priestley