The arrival of Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance has not made a big dent in the Australian legal market, according to a senior partner at Allens Arthur Robinson.
Allens North Asia and corporate head Paul Quinn told Lawyers Weekly that the larger headcount of top-tier firms in Australia as opposed to their UK rivals has meant that they have been able to hang on to the majority of their clients.
"We have not seen a significant impact from Allen & Overy or Clifford Chance in Australia because they don't have the scale that we have," said Quinn. "In Australia, we don't see them as a significant threat yet."
This week it was announced that Warwick Painter, a partner at Allens for more than 10 years, had joined DLA Piper. Despite Painter stating that his defection "gives me the opportunity to become part of a global business law firm", Quinn doesn't believe this signals a more broad desire of partners at top-tier law firms looking to move to global firms.
"It is a competitive market, and we feel that other firms have been hit a lot harder then us," said Quinn. "Partners moving firms is part of the competitive landscape."
Quinn added that Allens had been competing with global firms in the Asia-Pacific region for many years. He said that his firm's strategy in Asia focused on energy and resources, which he believes differentiates Allens from Australian rivals such as Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Minter Ellison that also have offices in mainland China and Hong Kong.
"Other Australian firms might have bigger offices in the region as compared to us, but they don't have the Asia-Pacific network that we have," he said. "We are targeting regional work in energy and resources, which we think is a major growth area for the firm."
Allens counts Rio Tinto as a client and last month it was appointed to the Business Council of Mongolia, a region attracting increasing interest from law firms.
This week, Allens announced that special counsel Kate Axup would relocate to Beijing to be the firm's chief representative in the Chinese capital. It was also revealed that special counsel Steve Potter and lawyer Ainsley Reid, both energy and resources specialists, would move from Australia to Singapore, bringing the firm's total number of lawyers in that office to 20.
"We see our competitive advantage in the region as being the depth of our client base and skills in energy and resources," Quinn said.
In discussing the long-term future of Allens, Quinn said that although "lots of foreign firms had knocked on the firm's door", no formal discussions about a merger with a global law firm have taken place. However, he said you "never say never".
"The market is very fluid," he said. "We will look at what is best for us and our clients. We have an open mind about it."
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