For a while there it looked as if the passion had gone from the UK legal world’s love affair with the US. After years of outrageous flirting, punctuated by the odd failed romance, it seemed as if the Brits had begun shifting their affections towards Australia.
Certainly Norton Rose’s summer union with Deacons elicited more than a few covetous glances.
But the impending nuptials between Lovells and Hogan & Hartson, which we pray will result in a transatlantic firm named Lovehart, looks to have rekindled that UK-US love affair. As we report today, Ashurst has been turning its attentions to its US strategy, choosing to build a future with a core list of very good friends rather than playing fast and loose with the whole of the market.
The most striking thing about the new arrangement is that it comes after Ashurst established its own US presence, launching in New York earlier this year with a structured finance team from long-term ally McKee Nelson. Once Ropes & Gray opens in London, each of the firm’s US best friends will have a UK base. The core of this strategy, then, is that it eschews old notions of competition. Instead it embraces a ‘getting along in the same city while promising not to step on each other’s toes’ kind of arrangement.
The very definition of friendly, surely? And if it tidies up what a former partner calls Ashurst’s “scattergun” approach to the US it could have the added bonus of boosting revenue. Meanwhile, Outer Temple Chambers is breaking new ground by launching in New York. Although there is currently little scope for its barristers to actually practise in the US, with deregulation of the bar imminent the move could be transformational. This revived passion for the US does not mean that Australia has fallen out of favour, of course.
The Lovehart deal is said to have prompted Clifford Chance to think about getting back in the merger game, and what better way to do that than by rekindling its courtship of Mallesons Stephen Jacques? And DLA Piper seems to be getting serious with its Aussie alliance partner DLA Phillips Fox, sending two partners down under in less than a week. What could be fanning those flames? A look at the City column on page 11 will reveal all.