U.K. Magic Circle firm Linklaters and Australia's Allens Arthur Robinson announced on Monday that they have entered into an exclusive alliance from May 1 and will form a series of joint ventures across Asia.
In an interview Sunday, Allens Arthur chief executive partner Michael Rose stressed that the deal was not a merger and that both firms wanted to remain independent.
"Clients understand that this is an offering that we could not get somewhere else," says Rose. "At the same time, it is also an arrangement that maintains our position in Australia and does not make us a firm extension or radically change our local offering."
Though short of a merger, the deal is the latest in a string of tie-ups involving a large Australian firm and an international partner. At the beginning of the year the former Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Blake Dawson respectively combined with China's King & Wood and the U.K.'s Ashurst. Freehills is currently discussing some kind of deal with British firm Herbert Smith, the inking of which would leave Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison the only remaining independent firms among Australia's Big Six law firms.
U.K. firms in particular have been drawn to Australia by the growth in cross-border investment in the country's energy and mineral resources by rising Asian economies, especially China. Linklaters' Magic Circle rivals Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance have both opened offices in Australia in recent years.
As part of the agreement, Linklaters and Allens Arthur have formed a profit-sharing joint venture bringing together their Asia-focused energy, resources and infrastructure lawyers. The two firms have also formed another JV focusing on Indonesia based on Allens Arthur's existing alliance with Jakarta law firm Widyawan & Partners.
According to Rose, the firms are looking to set up more such JVs, where resources of both firms are pooled to work together, either on a geographical or practice-oriented basis. He cited the Middle East, China, Vietnam and India as other markets where the firms might consider having JVs.
In a statement, Linklaters senior partner Robert Elliott called the two firms "a very good fit" with "a similar client base, complementary practice areas, cultural synergy, a leading depth and breadth of expertise, and strength of brand in our respective markets."
Linklaters, which has about 2,100 lawyers globally, has Asia offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Bangkok. Allens Arthur, which has around 800 lawyers, also has offices in China and Hong Kong but has made greater investments in recent years in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and Thailand. The firm also opened an office in Mongolia last fall.