DESPITE efforts to force a confession out of Mallesons Stephen Jaques regarding a merger with UK firm Clifford Chance, the firm is standing by its assurances that no merger is being discussed or underway.
Crikey's Tips and Rumours reported this week that Scuttlebutt in London says a merger between the two firms is back on the table. The New Lawyer put the rumour to Mallesons, which replied: "Scuttlebutt is the right word. It's just gossip."
But Firm Spy, an Australian gossip site, posted an anonymous link on the site, saying "the rumour circulating that a former merger between Mallesons and Clifford Chance is set to be announced within weeks is true".
The "anonymous source" gives a detailed run down of how the Mallesons board has successfully executed a voluntary redundancy program through which the firm managed to rid itself of a proportionately very high number of senior associates.
The firm has been able to "convince Clifford Chance that a 'leaner and meaner' Mallesons makes the merger commercially provident for both firms".
It reports that fewer than 10 people at each firm know of the upcoming merger, and claims: "Presumably the Mallesons media personnel contacted by The New Lawyer would therefore be unable to confirm whether this rumour is 'scuttlebutt'."
But Mallesons has since firmly stood its ground, and has informed all staff that no merger talks are currently underway. Staff have been told they can freely contradict suggestions that they are.
The UK mega firm had abandoned merger talks with the Australian firm in December last year. At the time the global financial crisis was blamed for the cancelled merger. Had it gone ahead, the merger would have created a global legal giant with more than 800 partners, offices on every continent and estimated revenues of more than $3.5 billion.