Norton Rose seals $1.9bn merger with America's Fulbright & Jaworski

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  • You have got to admire how NR have seemingly taken over the world through a series of mergers, setting the trend for others to follow. They may have got it through but now the real hard work begins, ie, finding the Fulbright partners desks in London, perhaps they could take some of the spare room Lawrence Graham has on offer, they're only next door.

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  • Two Stones frantically grabbing hold of each other in the hope that neither will sink?
    Although both have their bright spots, neither is a serious player and the fact they're not merging (it's a DLA style verein with no shared financials/profits) suggests neither has sufficient confidence in the other to go "all in".

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  • Hats off. While other firms have agonised, kvetched, denied, coyly admitted, overegged and otherwise talked too much about their future strategy, Norton Rose has got on and and done it. Consequently, we have a guaranteed upper second tier stalwart of tomorrow's global legal market (better than that in areas such as asset finance and energy), who will have stolen a march of years, in some cases, over their rivals from around the Silver Circle. Difficult not to be impressed by this.

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  • Now that is what I call a merger that will make a difference!

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  • @ anonymous 2.30p "neither is a serious player".
    So you're saying neither NR, Fulbright or the combo is a serious players in energy, mining, infra, financial institutions etc!?
    COME ONE.

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  • NR are marketing this as a merger, but it's in the end no different from an alliance like CMS. An exclusive alliance with a US firm is a step forward, but let's not pretend it's a merger. Unless you align financial interests of the partners it's not one firm. That's why KPMG (which had this model up until recently) decided to merge some of the important country practices.
    In sum. It's not as integrated as Baker & McKenzie, and that really is not saying a lot, is it...

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  • The winners in the future legal market appear to be shaping up as:
    1. Magic Circle/White Shoe, who can say, "we are the best". Their 'niche' or perhaps better described as 'space' is the very top end clients and transactions.
    2. Global Service Firms which start to look like the big 4 accountants. DLA Piper, K&L Gates, now Norton Rose. For international clients whose transactions are 'only' in the £100's of millions in deal value, the proposition that "we can do everything which you the client do, everywhere you do it" is a compelling pitch. NR's project lawyers in Perth should be cross-selling their capital markets capability in Toronto and London, and vice versa, and that is frankly a scary thought for their competitors in the natural resources space.

    3. True niche firms/offices/teams. Recall at one point Proskauer Rose (?) saying something along the lines of, in London we're going to do funds work, and in London funds work we're going to be bigger than our Magic Circle competitors. A firm or office which can achieve a position like that has a compelling pitch to a client in the relevant space.

    For the rest, the world is looking bleaker. There must be at least 20 odd mid-market full service firms that, as hard as they try, don't look any different to each other from a client's perspective. There are then perhaps 50+ other firms/offices which can do much of what the mid-market full service firms can do equally as well as they can. We all have pretty much the same overheads, the same access to practicallaw.com, loan market association etc. and other know-how, the same back office support, etc. So not only do these firms look the same from the outside in, in reality they are in fact pretty much indistiguisable.

    Partners in the bleak middle are left to build personal relationships backed by an 'ok brand'. Clients become personal clients and a true 'following' should the Partner cross the street. This is a terrible long term business model.

    In summary, Norton Rose, and DLA Piper and K&L Gates for that matter, should be applauded for leading the changing shape of the legal market. Other firms which were the natural competitors 10 years ago of their constituent/legacy firms, and which have not been so bold, are much more likely to fail than they are.

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  • Fair play to NR. Fulbright have a great brand in the US and NR are Global and on the Up. Wi this remove them from the chasing pack into the global elite....it ought to. Those indicating that mergers are only mergers if you share all profits don't understand the big 4 and how they have become unassailable yet had to run multiple partnerships for tax, regulation but also remuneration reasons. How long before there's a big global 4 or 6 law firms of which NR be one? Not long I should wager. Good luck to them

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  • "is a serious players in energy, mining, infra, financial institutions etc!?"
    I think the original comment started with "Although they both have their bright spots...."
    F&J is a second tier energy firm (if it were first tier, it wouldn't need to merge with a second tier firm). NR does low value mining, infra and is unheard of in FI. So by world standards, they're not serious players and I don't think eg Rio Tinto will be picking up the phone next time it's thinking of doing a deal.

    In fact, if I was GC of Rio, I would be even less likely to use either firm because of who each of them has chosen as a verein co-member. If this was the test of a good firm, Baker and McKenzie and DLA would dominate world legal services.

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  • You may want to look at RTZ's GC speed dial the next time you are in his office.

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