Last week The Lawyer reported that Denton Wilde Sapte was to abandon its Denton International (DI) network following frustrated attempts to merge with the jewel in the DI crown, German firm Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek. DI is a more or less exclusive European referral network, comprising firms in Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Sweden and the UK. Heuking wanted to keep DI going as an exclusive referral club, while it is understood that Dentons wanted to proceed to full merger with Heuking and some other choice members of the network. Without DI, Dentons still has a group of its own offices in Asia, France, the Middle East, the former CIS and Russia. The entire DI network could now dissolve, but if this does not happen, Dentons may be held to a six-month notice period.
Richard Taylor, CMS Cameron McKenna partner and chairman of the CMS international network "To some extent it's unavoidable that partners in alliances and networks have different ideas about how things should develop. When there's a common understanding of where people are coming from, you can take these on board, make compromises and stay together. When the profile or sense of worth of the alliance itself is at stake, this is harder and can cause a network to break down."
Michiel Wesseling, managing partner, Houthoff Buruma "The advantages of remaining independent are clear, in that you can refer international work to any firm that will provide the best service for your client. If you're in an exclusive network, you have to use the firms in the network, even if they're not the most suitable candidates for the job. Independence also gives you the opportunity to attract referral work from many sources."
Leslie Perrin, managing partner, Osborne Clarke "Any combination of law firms has to have common aims, and people need to be working towards the same objectives. If they don't share these common aims and objectives, it's better if they split up. In that sense, it's a bit like matrimony."