Since 2010, six global law firms have opened their doors in Australia. The recent merger between Blake Dawson and Ashurst has triggered discussion about the globalisation of the Australian legal market and the impact that the merger will have on national law firms. Many in the media are asking whether the global firms are here to stay. In reality, the better question is whether the local top tier firms are here to stay, and if so, in what form?
There is no doubt that there are more international firms on their way, and many of the leading firms in Australia like Mallesons Stephen Jacques have acknowledged they have had discussions with likely suitors. With that in mind, as a lawyer in Australia, you should really be asking what the “top tier” will look like in the next few years, and ultimately how you can position yourself to take advantage of the opportunities international firms present.
TREND TOWARDS GLOBALISATION
The globalisation of the Australian legal market is not a recent phenomenon. Firms like Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Norton Rose, Ashurst, DLA Piper, Holman Fenwick, and Squire Sanders join a list which already included many US firms in establishing a presence in Australia. Whether through mega-mergers like Blake Dawson and Ashurst, acquiring complete teams like Squire Sanders or building organically like Holman Fenwick, international firms are making a real success of their moves into the market. The growth of Allen & Overy and the ability of Norton Rose to completely change the image of Deacons is illustrative of this success.
As global firms continue to grow there is no doubt that clients in Australia are coming to assume that law firms operating on a global platform provide a point of difference. This very fact is what has driven the Australian firms to establish their own international networks in recent years. Ultimately, the global strategies of top firms to position themselves in the Asian legal markets is also indicative of preparing themselves for a long-term tie-up.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR LAWYERS
With this shift in the Australian legal scene comes great opportunity for local lawyers, and for those who want to come to Australia or return home. The approach taken by firms like Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance when coming into the market has meant that there is now real opportunity to work in Perth or Sydney in fast-growing truly international businesses with considerably stronger international platforms than any of our top tier. These are real opportunities to get in on the ground floor and make a name for yourself within an international practice. In Perth for instance, Squire Sanders – whose fourteen foundation partners were poached from Minter Ellison – is looking to have an additional 6 partners and 40 lawyers in the next six months.
Having the very best relationships with the world’s leading international firms after years of sending Australian and New Zealand lawyers to over 30 of their offices worldwide, EA International is especially well placed to advise you on your options in the new Australian offices. To hear more about the changes in the local market and how it could affect your career, please feel free to call any of our consultants for a detailed discussion on +61 2 9266 2900.
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