Top Australian practice Allens Arthur Robinson Group is merging to create one of the country's largest firms.
As revealed in The Lawyer last year, two of the firms in the group, Allen Allen & Hemsley and Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks, were looking at the possibility of a marriage (The Lawyer, 19 June 2000).
The two firms have now officially agreed to merge on 1 July 2001. The merged practice, which will be known as Allens Arthur Robinson, will have 181 partners and a total staff of 1,600.
It is not clear at this stage whether the third member of the Allens Group, Adelaide-based Finlaysons, will be included in the merger. Finlaysons, which has 20 partners, is the smallest member of the group.
The Allens Group is the final top-tier Australian alliance to merge. Traditionally, Australian firms had separate partnerships or alliances across different states. The last to form a national partnership structure was Freehills (The Lawyer, 21 February 2000).
Concerns over the management of the group were also behind the decision to merge.
Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks managing partner Tom Poulton says: "Business is changing and so must we. For the past 15 years, both firms have operated offices in six Asian capitals. Frankly, it was becoming a nightmare having separate brands."
The marriage will make a major impact on the Australian legal market. Conflicts are likely to be a problem as the group often acts as opposing counsel on the same deals.
Although the merger will significantly strengthen one of the country's leading firms, it could also mean a source of potential clients for rival firms due to conflicts within the merged firm.