Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/ALM

Dentons is making the bet that scary headlines across the globe equate to growing demand for protection from threats of all sorts, announcing a new intelligence and strategic services practice.

The international firm has turned to its chief global security officer, veteran energy lawyer Karl Hopkins, to lead the new group, which includes over 50 lawyers and other intelligence and security professionals in the firm.

“All you need to do is pick up the newspaper to understand that unfortunately the world we live in isn’t always the safest place,” Hopkins said. 

He said that international businesses are at risk of the same dangers faced by sovereign nations, from physical attacks to cybersecurity incursions. But while the U.S. government has its own intelligence agencies to offer protections, corporate entities also need comprehensive support.

“If you look at any big company these days, the big problems that clients face are no longer single disciplinary: it’s not just a legal, IT or just an HR solution,” Hopkins added. “Most serious issues are multiple stakeholder issues.”

To that end, according to the firm, the practice starts by offering businesses comprehensive security assessments that identify internal and external threats, as well as vulnerable policies and processes and potential weaknesses in insurance coverage, cybersecurity readiness and corporate governance.

The members of the team include attorneys who focus on cybersecurity and white-collar crime, and corporate pros with a background in due diligence. They are complemented by a collection of nonlawyers at the firm with backgrounds in military intelligence and law enforcement.

Hopkins said that as a traditional lawyer who built his career on advising energy businesses on infrastructure projects around the globe, his clients have long been concerned with providing physical security for their endeavors. This latest move is also client-driven, he asserted.

“As the world has gotten smaller and faster—certainly with the digital revolution and what has happened since global financial crisis—security is at the forefront of all client needs,” he said.

And it would make sense for law firm rivals to offer a similar set of services.

Those who are the most informed are going to make the best decisions,” Hopkins said. “It’s a logical space that big law firms need to be able to play in. They’ve got to be able to provide value-differentiating services to their clients.”

Members of the practice come from all parts of the rapidly expanding firm, but Hopkins—who himself is based in Houston—flagged Washington, D.C., as a key locus.

The firm’s most recent geographic move came earlier this month when it announced a tie-up with Chilean firm Larrain Rencoret Urzua.

In July, Dentons’ Canadian arm absorbed Toronto-based boutique McLean & Kerr, a move that came two months after the firm acquired 40-lawyer Hawaiian shop Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing. In March, Dentons absorbed the bulk of Australian outfit DibbsBarker and announced seven other tie-ups with firms in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.