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Osborne Clarke is to merge with its Spanish and Italian Alliance partners, Osborne Clarke Spain and SLA Studio Legale Associato, as it dismantles its formal European alliance with the aim of transforming into a standalone European firm.
Managing partner Simon Beswick said the firm would loosen its formal alliance with Belgian-based De Wolf & Partners, Rotterdam-based Ploum Lodder Princen and Stehlin & Associés of France, all of which were given the option of merging with the firm.
A ‘best friends’ relationship will continue between the firms but in loosening the formal alliance the Bristol-headquartered firm will pave the way for further consolidation across Europe.
Beswick said: “When the alliance first came together [in 1987] it was a grouping of independent law firms. We’ve taken the view that we need to be an international firm and some members want to continue being independent.”
The firm is close to signing heads of terms agreements with Osborne Clarke Spain and SLA Studio Legale Associato to give it bases in Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Padova and Brescia. The mergers will add 21 partners to the firm, bringing the total number to 145. The mergers are expected to increase OC’s global turnover to approximately £117m (€140m).
“Both firms have real strengths in the sectors we’re active in,” Beswick said. “This includes energy and natural resources, financial services, digital business, real estate and life sciences, pharma. They have excellent reputations in their domestic markets and wide experience of working on international matters.”
Initially the firms will adopt a Swiss verein model for the combined partnerships. Beswick said the model was selected “to make things happen quickly given our current structure”.
The firm is discussing the creation of an international management board that is expected to be put together in the coming weeks ahead of the anticipated mergers going live in July.
Beswick said the firm had set out its stall to become a European contender funnelling instructions from the US and India. Further acquisitions are likely, although Beswick would not be drawn on location.
Osborne Clarke launched in Germany in 2001 with a base in Cologne and opened in Munich in 2005.