Partners from K&L Gates and 300-lawyer Australian firm Middletons have unanimously voted to merge, effective Jan. 1, 2013.
The combined firm will use the K&L Gates name and will count over 2,000 lawyers worldwide. The merger will add new offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, and Brisbane, bringing the firm’s total offices to 46. In Asia, the firm also has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, and Singapore.
The two firms announced in August that they had been in talks for several months and that partners would receive formal proposals by year’s end.
It is the latest in a string of mergers and tie-ups that have transformed the Australian legal landscape over the past year. Of the country’s six largest firms, four have entered into mergers or alliances in 2012. The former Mallesons Stephen Jaques combined with Chinese firm King & Wood to form King & Wood Mallesons. The former Blake Dawson, Allens Arthur Robinson (now Allens), and Freehills signed deals with U.K. firms Ashurst, Linklaters, and Herbert Smith, respectively.
Many of those firms have been attracted by the increasing economic integration between resource-rich Australia and the rest of Asia. For the past few years, Australia has consistently ranked as one of the top destinations for outbound investment from China.
Both K&L Gates and Middletons have previous experience with mergers. The Pittsburgh firm Kirkpatrick & Lockhart combined with U.K. firm Nicholson Graham & Jones and Seattle’s Preston Gates & Ellis to become the present K&L Gates. Middletons undertook a three-way merger with Perth-based firms Salter Power and Franklyn Legal to establish a Western Australia presence in 2009. In March, the firm again merged with a Queensland firm Flower & Hart to build its Brisbane office.
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