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Global firms break down barriers

Global firms break down barriers

By Adam Wakeling


Between 2010 and 2013, the Australian legal market went from being almost entirely domestic to very globalised. The relative strength of the Australian economy following the onset of the global financial crisis and the resources boom made Australia look attractive from an economic perspective. At the same time, the proximity of Australia to Asia and their shared time zones meant that international firms could connect themselves to growing markets in Asia without needing to make the difficult cultural transition from a western country to an Asian one. Before 2010, the Australian legal market was dominated by the Big Six national firms – Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Minter Ellison – created out of a series of mergers of major state-based firms between 1983 and 2001. But in the three years from 2010, the market was completely shaken up again, with the national firms becoming international ones. In 2010 Australian firm Deacons merged with British firm Norton Rose, which subsequently merged with American firm Fulbright & Jaworski to form Norton Rose Fulbright, one of the largest law firms in the world. In 2012 Allens Arthur Robinson entered into an alliance with British magic circle firm Linklaters, and between them they established joint ventures in Asia. Also in 2012 Blake Dawson merged with British firm Ashurst to form Ashurst Australia, and Freehills merged with British firm Herbert Smith to form Herbert Smith Freehills. The same year, Mallesons Stephen Jacques merged with Chinese firm King & Wood, the first merger of a western law firm with a Chinese one, to create King & Wood Mallesons (KWM). In 2013, mid-tier Australian firm Middletons merged with major American firm K&L Gates.

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