Slaughter and May and Allens Arthur Robinson (AAR) are reaping the benefits of their best friends arrangement
The two firms have already started working together and are acting jointly on an oil refinery project in Thailand. The firms have undertaken a number of joint marketing initiatives pitching for work, but the Thailand project is the first example of the best friends relationship in action. AAR executive partner for the Asia Pacific region Ewen Crouch said: "It involves lawyers from Slaughter and May and AAR working together as we'd envisaged." The project is a A$2.9bn (£1bn) debt restructuring for an undisclosed client. Crouch continued: "This particular project is the primary one that is currently in train involving lawyers from both firms working side by side, and we have a number of other opportunities that are currently in the pipeline that we're putting forward. "If they mature as we expect, there'll be things to talk about later on." Although the relationship is at an early stage, this first deal will give both firms an indication of how the relationship will work in the future. "In terms of the best friends arrangement, it's going extremely well," said Crouch. "There's a tremendous degree of enthusiasm in both firms to make this work well for both of us." Crouch acknowledged that the proof of the relationship's efficacy will be in the work won by the best friends. One job may not be sufficient to judge the coherence of the relationship, but Crouch believes that it does at least provide an idea. The best friends arrangement was instigated to give both firms greater impact on the increasingly competitive markets across the Asia Pacific region. Head of corporate at Slaughters Nigel Boardman said: "It will make us a more successful organisation in South East Asia." Neither firm is interested in becoming more intimate than best friends. Peter Cameron, head of M&A at AAR, argued that mergers between UK and Australian firms are ill-fated. "You're dealing with very, very big firms that have totally different economic structures," he said. "We don't have that problem with this sort of arrangement." Boardman, too, said that the impact on UK and Australian markets would be negligible. The two firms, which are not in competition in their respective home markets, seem to have created potentially fruiful model for progressing into South East Asia. Cameron reaffirmed this sentiment. He said: "There are a lot of opportunities for work in Asia that are going to be of mutual benefit." The best friends have offices in key countries in the Asia Pacific. AAR has offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangkok, Jakarta, Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea; Slaughter and May has offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.