What a difference a year or two make when it comes to the expansionary tactics of offshore law firms.
Just 24 months ago the offshore legal market was a very different beast. Since then there have been no fewer than four mergers within the ‘offshore magic circle’, not to mention a myriad of office openings.
Appleby Spurling Hunter combined with Bailhache Labesse on 1 September 2006, Ogier’s merger with British Virgin Islands-based best friend WSmiths went live on 1 February 2007, Walkers launched in Jersey following its July 2006 merger with Crills Advocates, and Mourant de Feu & Jeune completed its pairing with Caymans-based Quin & Hampson in September this year.
Now the offshore market has been rocked by ‘mega-merger’ talks that could lead to the daddy of all offshore mergers. As exclusively revealed by The Lawyer (22 October), Walkers is in talks with Mourant to create what would be indisputably the largest offshore firm with 300-plus lawyers spread across eight jurisdictions.
Yet the rest of the market is still trying to maintain an indifferent view of the discussions. A spokesman at Conyers Dill & Pearman downplays any threat posed by the potential merger, saying: “As I understand it, they are still in the exploratory stages.”
Maples & Calder managing partner Gus Pope is rather more abrasive, saying: “I hope they don’t become to the offshore market what Clifford Chance and Rogers & Wells were onshore.”
But surely a firm that would be some 100 lawyers larger than its closest competitors and boasts presences in all of the financial hubs of Dubai, Hong Kong, London and New York (unlike any of its rivals) must be cause for concern?