The relationship between Deacons Australia and Deacons Hong Kong remains amicable, said Deacons' Hong Kong chief, stating the firm had not been surprised at the merger between Norton Rose and Deacons Australia.
The merger will see Deacons Australia break off its 17-year old formal association with its Hong Kong arm, which was formed following a merger with a now defunct US firm, Graham & James. Deacons Australia chief Don Boyd said that the merger was initiated by his firm, following a strategy formed in 2006 to break into a bigger market. "The merger decision came from the Deacons end because we found that that's where the legal world was going, and we set out to identify a law firm that had a compatible vision and culture, and that took a while," he said. "Peter [Norton Rose chief Peter Martyr] and I started this process around a year ago, so it's taken around a year from beginning to end."
Deacons Hong Kong chief Lindsay Esler said that the firm had been notified of the break away at the time and that the relationship remains amicable. "They did not surprise us," he said. "Basically, we were two large associated firms and we were heading in different strategic directions. It's very much suited for Deacons Australia to merge with Norton Rose, and to be honest we're quite comfortable with our position here because we're by far the largest independent firm in Hong Kong."
Although Deacons Australia will be re-branded under the Norton Rose name and will effectively be in competition with its former associated firm, both Deacons Australia and Hong Kong said that they may well continue to work together.
"We already do a little bit of work with Norton Rose in Hong Kong, and we work with many international firms here," said Esler. "I think from time to time we'll be working with the Norton Rose Group as the opportunities come up. Deacons Australia has some pretty good specialists down there so I don't see any reason why not."
"We're in the process of terminating the relationship between the two organisations and that's done in a friendly way," said Boyd. "We've achieved a lot together over the 17 years. Deacons Hong Kong is a well known firm there but there's no ongoing formal relationship after we join the Norton Rose Group. I think there are existing relationships between Norton Rose and Deacons to the extent that it's possible to do work together," he added.
While this is the latest law firm merger in Asia-following last year's high-profile merger between JSM and Mayer Brown-Esler pointed out that his firm will continue to "pursue an independent path in Asia," and that no merger plans were on the cards. "We don't want a merger, since we're now the leading independent firm in Hong Kong," he said. "We work with a lot of independent firms around the world; around 40% of our work comes from overseas so we're pretty comfortable with what we've got. We're going to stick with our China and other network of offices."
Norton Rose merges with Deacons Australia
Norton Rose and Deacons have announced a strategic merger to take effect in January 2010, with the firms re-emerging as the Norton Rose Group.