Norton Rose to team up with Deacons Australia

The Aussie law firm breaks away from its Hong Kong partner to become part of Norton Rose's international network.

UK law firm Norton Rose is betting its future on growth in the Asia-Pacific, having agreed yesterday to team up with Deacons Australia.

The two firms will officially join forces on January 1, 2010, with the five Australian offices -- in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney -- dropping the Deacons brand and becoming part of a new firm that will be called the Norton Rose Group.

Deacons Australia includes 146 partners and boosts Norton Rose's headcount in Asia-Pacific to more than 700 fee-earners in 12 offices. The tie-up ends a 17-year joint venture between Deacons in Hong Kong and Australia, but some Deacons lawyers based in Singapore and Jakarta are also reported to be part of the deal.

Peter Martyr, Norton Rose's chief executive, will continue to lead the new firm, with Don Boyd, the chief executive of Deacons Australia, becoming deputy chief executive of the Norton Rose Group. Stephen Parish, the recently elected chairman of Norton Rose, will continue in his role.

Worldwide, the new Norton Rose Group will have a turnover of almost $700 million and 1,800 fee-earners in 29 offices.

Although the deal actually comprises few staff on the ground in Asia, both parties acknowledge that the region is central to their growth plans.

"As soon as the initial discussions were underway it became clear that there was a common global ambition, particularly in the predicted growth markets of the future, namely Asia-Pacific," said Boyd. "We have shared aspirations regarding strategic growth, both in practice area terms and geographic expansion. The business case is compelling and the synergy of working together is convincing."

By adding so many lawyers in the Asia time zone, the acquisition of the Deacons offices ought to significantly improve Norton Rose's ability to service clients in the region -- a capability unique among its rivals, as no other UK law firms have tied up with an Australian firm, despite some flirtation between the biggest firms in each country at the start of the decade.

"The economic influence in the world is moving eastwards and in order to develop our business we needed a significant expansion in our resources in Asia-Pacific," said Martyr. "The increased capability of the group throughout Asia-Pacific will lay the foundations for further regional development and expansion."

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.