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National firms must re-think strategy

National firms must re-think strategy

The merger between Blake Dawson and Ashurst has shone a spotlight on the future of national firms, according to a global law firm partner.Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Sydney-based Jones Day…

The merger between Blake Dawson and Ashurst has shone a spotlight on the future of national firms, according to a global law firm partner.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Sydney-based Jones Day partner Matthew Latham said the merger will have major ramifications in the domestic legal market.

"What looked like a trend on the international global side is starting to look like a tsunami," he said. "The Blakes and Ashurst merger will put additional pressure on the other big national firms to determine what their international strategy is."

Latham was a partner at Corrs Chambers Westgarth before moving across to Jones Day in 2006. He believes it is futile for national firms to deny there is a trend towards the globalisation of legal services.

"There is a perception within the industry and a perception by clients that operating a global platform is a plus... I don't think you can deny that now," he said.

Before the official merger announcement yesterday, Blake Dawson sounded out around 20 of their key clients. The client response was largely positive.

Despite the prospect of another global competitor following hot on the heels of the entry of Clifford Chance, Squire Sanders and DLA Piper in the Australian legal market this year, Gilbert + Tobin managing partner Danny Gilbert said the impending arrival of Ashurst will not unduly influence how his firm operates.

"I don't know if it will have an impact on how we go about our business," he said. "It will have an impact on how we view the market as Blakes will be a different type of competitor, with access to a larger global network of influence."

Gilbert said his firm would "look at" a merger in the future, but that Gilbert + Tobin was not in any formal discussions with other law firms about a possible merger.

He also said that despite the globalisation of the legal market, there is still room for stand-alone national firms to act on meaningful work.

"It is about the expertise and the quality of your offering," he said. "If you populate your firm with go-to partners, who are leaders in their markets ... then you can withstand competition from the best law firms."

Blakes will trade under the Ashurst moniker from March 2012.

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