US law firms are eyeing New Zealand firms with a few to using this country to move into Asia.
According to “Briefcase” columnist John Bowie writing in this week’s National Business Review major New Zealand law firms have already received approaches from US law firms seeking entrance to the market, following a massive move by major US and UK law firms into the Australian market over recent months.Almost all the major Australian firms have now cemented, or are in the process of discussing deals with major firms.
These include Mallesons Stephen Jaques, which have merged with China-based King & Wood to become King & Wood Mallesons. Blake Dawson’s name has disappeared as it merges with UK-based Ashursts in Asia, Allens Arthur Robinson is talking with Linklaters about a tie-up and Herbert Smith is talking with Freehills.
And the major global players like Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and US firms like Squire Sanders, Dorsey & Whitney, Skadden Arps, DLA Piper and of course Baker & McKenzie, the first major international legal franchise, are all heavily involved in Australia.The lack of major partners in the Australian market has seen the American firms, facing a lacklustre local domestic market, turn to New Zealand, which offers highly trained, highly mobile lawyers who travel and work more than any other legal group in the world on a per capita basis.
As one major law firm source told Briefcase, “there are not too many pretty girls left at the dance”.
But the US firms in particular, which are themselves being left without partnering options as a result of the major shift in the Australian market, are needing to grow their own share of the burgeoning Asian legal market and the requirement for well trained lawyers has seen them viewing the New Zealand market.Briefcase indicates that Kensington Swan, which is evidently discussing a possible merger with Auckland-based Brookfields, may be one target.
It’s unlikely that the very largest firms would be looking to do any such deal, but given what has occurred in Australia anything is possible.Whatever may be the outcome of American, and possibly British moves into the New Zealand market, the dynamics of the legal landscape are certainly changing for good.