New Global Firm Makes a Debut, Shunning US

New Global Firm Makes a Debut, Shunning US

The merger between Canada-based Gowlings and U.K.-based Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co., first announced in July, became official on Monday.

With 1,400 lawyers and an expected $615 million in revenue, the new firm, Gowling WLG, could break into the top two-thirds of The American Lawyer’s Global 100 list of highest-grossing firms. It will likely be among the top quarter of those firms when ranked according to head count.

But Gowling WLG also stands out from most other international giants. For one thing, it’s among the very few big global firms to have no U.S. office—or indeed any plans to open one. Of the top 75 Global 100 firms, only CMS Legal Services and Eversheds currently don’t have offices in the United States.

“It didn’t make sense for us as a business proposition to go into a competitive legal market that is very well serviced,” said Peter Lukasiewicz, the new firm’s CEO, who originally comes from the Canadian firm.

“We have fantastic relationships with a number of U.S. law firms with whom we have excellent referral networks,” he said.

Lukasiewicz, pictured right, said that Gowlings and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. each independently undertook serious reviews of their international strategies about two years ago. The Gowlings partners decided to grow their international practice through a merger of equals, and the U.K.-based firm came to a similar conclusion, Lukasiewicz said.

The merged firm is not a Swiss verein, the corporate structure used by some other megacombinations, but is organized in the U.K. as a company limited by guarantee.

The two partnerships are each members of that entity. They have separate financial structures and are governed by one six-person board.

Lukasiewicz said this type of structure was brought to the firms’ attention by an outside lawyer that he did not name, but who had worked with several accounting firms. PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young are also organized as companies limited by guarantee whose member firms are each separate legal entities.

Since July, the two firms have undergone a major effort to merge aspects of their operations. They have reorganized their practice areas to include lawyers from both firms and developed more robust conflict checks because all clients will be treated as clients of both firms.

Gowling WLG has also launched a new, joint website from scratch. Lukasiewicz noted that the website is set up in a way that makes it easy to add new offices and lawyers as the firm continues to expand.

“Our initial focus is in Europe and in Asia,” Lukasiewicz said, explaining that the firm will be looking for other merger partners in those regions.

The firm currently has offices in London; Birmingham; Dubai; three cites in Asia; five in continental Europe; and six in Canada. Its lawyers practice in four key areas: IP, infrastructure, natural resources and power generation.

Lukasiewicz said that Gowling WLG was the first of the international legal megacombinations to be co-led by a Canadian firm, adding that his Canadian clients were enthusiastic about the merger.

“They’re proud to see their Canadian law firm expanding as they’re expanding,” he said.