The news of the week in the Australian legal market was the announcement of a formal alliance between international law firm Linklaters and Allens Arthur Robinson. The firms have agreed on a formalized alliance arrangement rather than a full-blown merger that will see both firms leverage off each other’s global and Australian presences, respectively. The firms will remain as separate businesses but have an official referral process that will no doubt see increased services and capabilities for their respective clients. From a branding point of view, the Linklaters will retain their current name and brand, while Allens will make the minor adjustment of removing the “Arthur Robinson” from their present name.
For Linklaters, the alliance gives them a platform within the Australian market without having to open an office through a full merger, takeover or start up. They will become the next of the elite UK firms to gain ground in the Australian market hot on the heels of Clifford Chance, Allen & Overy and Ashurst. For Allens it gives them a genuinely international network of lawyers and services which they can now offer clients internally. By association, the alliance also gives them greater global exposure.
It’s a novel model; a middleground between opening an independent office and formally merging – routes that have been undertaken by UK and US firms in the past two years in opening offices in Sydney and Perth. No doubt the arrangement will give both Linklaters and Allens more flexibility to grow in market relationships that have shown potential, without the complex and costly commitment of a comprehensive merger (trickier still when both firms hold such a dominant position within their respective markets).
Given this decision to form an alliance over a merger, there will no doubt be questions amongst each firms’ associate-level fee earners as to what it all means from a practical point of view (in terms of the their current position within their firm and prospective international moves that they may be considering). This will be particularly relevant for Australian lawyers who may view the alliance as an offer to pursue an overseas career. Will it result in an internal move for Allens lawyers or will it remain a lateral move to a competitor? Will the arrangement be formalized with two secondment programmes in place? How closely and cooperatively will the firms work to give their lawyers these opportunities if they want them? All are valid questions. No doubt there will be sensitivities in some cases where, for example, an Australian lawyer at Allens wishes to apply for a position with Linklaters in one of their overseas offices. From a recruitment point of view, confidentiality always plays a part in the process as does the fact that partners don’t like to let their best people go. So how will such a process be managed on a case-by-case basis?
As with all lateral moves, lawyers should remember that they will still be effectively moving to a new firm or employer, albeit one they perhaps know better than they did before and the process may well become more streamlined with arrangements in place for secondments and other methods or sharing the talent pool. Again – in this context – confidentiality becomes more important than ever. Managing at arm’s length will always be the best way to approach things to ensure the right move is made and all suitable opportunities are explored.
If you would like to know more about how this situation will impact on your international career, contact one of our international consultants on +61 2 9266 2900 or email email@example.com.
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