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Herbert Smith (UK) and Freehills (Australia) Merger Creates New Firm
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On Thursday, Australia’s Freehills and UK-based Herbert Smith announced that they are merging into a single firm with 2,800 lawyers with 20 offices across the world. The new firm would also be opening new offices in New York, Germany and South Korea. The new firm would go by the name of Herbert Smith Freehills and would start operating from October 1, 2012.

The new law firm is expected to be one of the largest firms in the Asia-Pacific legal market and become the eighth-largest firm based on the number of lawyers. Though in the U.S. law firm mergers have dropped significantly this quarter, in Australia, mergers seem as popular as ever. In September, UK-based Ashurst announced a merger with Australian Blake Dawson, and in December, Chinese firm King & Wood announced merging with Australia’s Mallesons.

The managing partner of Herbert Smith, David Willis, said that the shift of economic power from West to East and the continual expansion of global companies into the Asia-Pacific market necessitated the merger to ensure a stronger presence in the Asia-Pacific.

  
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He said, “So many of our clients … operate in global markets, and they’re increasingly looking for global capability across a single platform … We think we are creating the leading fully integrated platform in Asia. It’s very exciting, in terms of what we can offer our clients.”

David Willis, and Gavin Bell, the managing partner of Freehills would be serving as joint CEOs of the new firm. However, to avert Dewey-like situations, the new firm would also have a global governing council comprised of partners from both firms. The firm would focus its practice in Australia, Europe, Asia, Middle East and the UK.

The firm also hopes to open an office in New York within the next several years. The New York office would provide the firms their first base in the U.S. and would be focused on providing North America-based clients with support on issues like investigations, anti-corruption, cross-border issues and international arbitration.

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