In the summer of 2008, Peter Martyr, chief executive of London’s Norton Rose, was pondering his firm’s next big move. In the previous decade, the 1,000-lawyer British firm had steadily expanded across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, cementing its place as a global player standing just outside the Magic Circle firms. There seemed to be a natural next step. “I was really focusing at the time on the States and Latin America,” he recalls.

When London legal consultant Tony Williams called to propose a meeting with an Australian firm, Martyr agreed, mostly out of politeness and curiosity. But after that July 2008 meeting, Australia stayed on Martyr’s mind. Over the rest of the summer, he thought about how a cross-border relationship could work, and by November the two firms began serious discussions. In June, Norton Rose announced that it would merge with Australia’s 500-lawyer Deacons at the beginning of 2010. Deacons’s biggest offices are in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane, but Martyr is clear that the combination is not about Australia. It is about Asia.

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