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Oz global firm mergers could change recruitment

A question mark hangs over the potential for international recruitment of Australian lawyers, after the announcement of Deacons' intentions to merge with Norton Rose Group, claims one…

A question mark hangs over the potential for international recruitment of Australian lawyers, after the announcement of Deacons' intentions to merge with Norton Rose Group, claims one recruiter.

Edward Andrew, managing director of EA International, predicts that more Australian law firms will be working more closely with international global law firms over the next decade.

"The biggest question mark over the entire international recruitment game for Australia is if, in five to 10 years time, or whatever it takes, the UK and US firms have joined forces with the leading Australian firms. Then that changes the dynamic. If Norton Rose and Deacons can put it together and they can move to full- mode integration then, obviously, there has got to be scope for other firms," he told Lawyers Weekly.

"It may change the way we do business, but it means the Australian lawyers will be part of international global law firms and will be pretty happy to work around the world within their law firm."

But Jonathan Marsden, director of the London office of Marsden International, predicted it would have only a minor impact.

"The question is 'Will the lawyers from Deacons come off the international recruitment market because they have options to go to Norton Rose?' We've seen that with international mergers that hasn't had much of an impact," he said.

"We'll still get approached by Deacons lawyers wanting to go to Slaughter and May or Clifford Chance and not go to Norton Rose. Or we'll still get Norton Rose lawyers wanting to go to Mallesons or Allens. So there will definitely be more internal transfers, but a lot of the Australian firms have been doing informal transfer for years between them and their 'best friends'."

The Norton Rose and Deacons move is planned to take effect from 1 January 2010 after a positive vote from the Deacons partnership in June. The decision will see Norton Rose consolidate an Asia-Pacific region presence with one of Australia's largest mid-tier firms.

Expected to have a turnover of about $864 million - with in 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.

DLA Phillips Fox formed an alliance with DLA Piper in November 2006, while Clifford Chance and Mallesons have discussed the merger option but have not gone beyond that.

See the London Report in next week's edition of Lawyers Weekly.

- Sarah Sharples

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