Has the World’s Biggest Law Firm Just Been Created?

law firm tie-up

The biggest . . the best . . the largest . . the ongoing competition for the “biggest law firm in the world” may now be another British-based legal monolith: Dentons.

The firm’s announcement of a tie-up with Chinese and Australian law firms may just make the firm not just part of the reshaping of the legal world, but also a genuine world-dominating legal player.

The firm has already said that there is “no logical end” to how big it can become.

The plans to merge with Dacheng in China and Gadens in Australia would create a firm with 7,300 lawyers and over $2 billion in revenues.  Add to the mix a 200 lawyer firm in Singapore (Rodyk & Davidson) and you have a genuine giant.

The NY Times’ “Dealbook” page noted that the three-way tie-up is part of a wave of combinations sweeping the legal market.

There were 68 law firm combinations in the United States in 2015 through the end of September, according to the legal consulting firm Altman Weil, the highest number in the last decade.

Most recent tie-ups, though, have been mergers of smaller firms, especially intellectual property boutiques, and do not involve the huge numbers of lawyers involved in the cross-border combinations that Dentons is engineering. The combination, which creates a legal behemoth more along the lines of a global accounting firm, is sufficiently large that the firm created a website, dentonscombination.com, to lay out the details of the arrangement.

Dentons is amassing a broad base of expertise around the globe, according to Joseph J. Andrew, the firm’s chairman.

“We are pivoting from the base we already have in the Atlantic,” he said, “and finding new talent in new geographical locations.”

The deal is partly stimulated by the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord involving Pacific nations and the US, which is expected to generate a lot of deal flow and major activity, including involving Dentons’ 200 clients with business in both Australia and Singapore.

At the same time, Dentons has engaged in large combinations, it also has been adding hundreds of lawyers, often from other domestic law firms. So far in 2015, the firm has hired 431 such lawyers, according to Mr. Andrew.

The ongong mergers and tie-ups with law firms is rapidly changing the shape of the profession and aligning new groups to take advantage of changes both in the legal landscape and the overall business changes occuring internationally.

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