In a sign that consolidation in the legal market is not just limited to the United States, large law firms in three other countries have announced combinations in the first few weeks of 2018.
On Jan. 19, Australian firm HWL Ebsworth announced that it had agreed to merge with TressCox Lawyers, the latest in a series of legal industry combinations Down Under.
The union, effective Feb. 5, will create a firm with more than 1,150 staff, about 230 of them partners, 610 other legal practitioners and 340 support staff. The combined firm, which will continue to use the HWL Ebsworth name, will have nine Australian offices located in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and two in Sydney.
“Culturally, the two firms operate in a very similar way, and I am confident that our practitioners will come together as one team seamlessly,” said a statement by HWL managing partner Juan Martinez. “This combination will only enhance our ability to deliver unrivaled value for money without compromising quality or service.”
HWL and Martinez, which were both hit late last year with a sex discrimination claim by a former female partner at the firm, are part of a group of Australian outfits such as Clayton Utz, Gilbert + Tobin and MinterEllison that have chosen to remain independent and resist mergers with foreign firms.
Norton Rose Fulbright was the latest global legal services acquirer in Australia after it agreed last year to absorb local firm Henry Davis York. In October, British firm DWF set up shop in Oz after inking an exclusive association with MVM Legal in Brisbane and Melbourne. Piper Alderman, another independent Australian firm, announced that same month a midtier merger of its own with Norton Gledhill, a Melbourne-based commercial boutique that it officially combined with on Nov. 1.
In Israel, a market that at various times in recent years has drawn the interest of some large U.S. firms, one of the country’s largest legal services providers unveiled a merger of its own shortly after New Year’s Day.
Shibolet & Co., which in 2014 picked up a seven-lawyer boutique in Tel Aviv as the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted rockets fired from Gaza, said on Jan. 3 that it would combine with Raved, Magriso, Benkel & Co. to form one of Israel’s largest firms.
The union between Shibolet and Raved Magriso combines the 11th- and 28th-largest firms in the country, according to Israeli business publication Globes, which noted that the combined firm will have more than 300 partners, associates and articled clerks. Shibolet specializes in cross-border transactions, venture capital and technology work, while Raved Magriso has expertise in commercial law, litigation, real estate and the technology sector.
Lastly, in the U.K., Charles Russell Speechlys (CRS) recently confirmed plans to merge with London-based sports law boutique Couchmans, according to sibling publication Legal Week. The move rebuilds a sports practice at CRS that took a hit late last year after four partners left the firm to form a boutique of their own called Northridge.
Couchmans’ four partners and seven fee-earners will move to CRS, which itself was formed in 2014 through a combination between two British firms. Some sporting clients of Couchmans include the Ascot Racecourse, Fitbit Inc., the International Tennis Federation and Rapha Racing Ltd.
The U.K.’s law firm merger market has been relatively quiet so far this year, according to a database of deals maintained by London-based Jomati Consultants. The sole merger on Jomati’s list for 2018 is Kennedys’ Jan. 2 expansion into Argentina through its union with Buenos Aires-based Alberto Bunge & Associates.