Deacons adopts new name in Pacific

THE ASIA-PACIFIC association between Hong Kong firm Deacons, Australia's Sly & Weigall and US practice Graham & James has gone a step further with the three taking on a joint name in the region.

The practice, now known as Deacons Graham & James, was renamed last month, three years after the association began.

The Sly & Weigall name – which covered offices in Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney – becomes obsolete, but Graham & James retains its title in the US.

The three practices will continue to operate individual profit centres in their home countries but become equal partners in all Asian offices.

Australian national chair Don Boyd said the decision to drop the Sly & Weigall name was made because both Deacons and Graham & James had exceptional reputations in Asia, while Sly & Weigall, born out of a 1987 merger between firms in Sydney and Melbourne, was not as established.

The US firm is retaining its name only in the domestic market, where it runs a strong client base separate from its external activities.

“The focus of what we were all doing was the Asia Pacific area, while the US practice was a major base of its own,” said Boyd. “It had good will, which we all thought needed to be preserved in its own right.

“In Australia we thought about it long and hard and the reason we did not impose our name was that, although its antecedents went back a century or so, Sly & Weigall was in a sense a new firm.

“Our focus really is Asia and Deacons is an extraordinarily well-known legal name there, while Graham & James is particularly well-known in Japan and China. Our long-term strategic aims were best served by changing over.”

The move was supported by another Australian lawyer who said it would enable Sly & Weigall to set itself apart from other firms in the country.

“Sly & Weigall were not in the top five or six in the country,” said the lawyer. “This is a way of them being able to differentiate themselves from the rest of the second tier by marketing and selling their services in a slightly different way to everybody else.”

The grouping of the firms makes Deacons Graham & James the second largest international practice in Asia next to Baker & McKenzie.

The network of more than 270 partners covers Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Taipei and Tokyo.

Boyd confirmed the group was also looking at developing markets and said it was possible an office could be opened in either Burma or India within the next 12 months.

“We'll grow whenever its of benefit to our clients and to ourselves,” he said. “We constantly review a number of potential sites because a lot of the companies that we represent, particularly those in Asia, are looking at emerging areas.”