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It’s all happening Down Under. First Norton Rose marched into the Australian market by signing a tie-up with Deacons.
Now Antipodean firm Freehills has branched out into Asia by launching an alliance with Chinese firm TransAsia (see story).
So what’s going on? Has the Australian legal market finally cast off its dour image and emerged as the dynamic new powerhouse of the region?
Well, no. Not quite. Australia is still over-lawyered and, compared to US and UK rivals at least, relatively unprofitable.
What Aussie firms have realised is that to expand they must escape a stagnant domestic market and tap into Asia, which looks set to be one of the first places to recover from the global economic malaise.
That’s why Deacons first approached Norton Rose (which has a decent Hong Kong practice) and that’s why Freehills has made friends with TransAsia.
There’s just one problem. Every other law firm in the world has had the same idea - and Australian firms have traditionally had limited success in Asia, despite their geographic advantage.
A non-exclusive alliance will hardly cut it. Strewth.