Sydney firm Gilbert & Tobin has emerged as the leading candidate as Clifford Chance steps up its search for an Australian tie-up.
The magic circle firm is understood to have held talks with a number of firms in both Sydney and Perth with a view to finding merger partners in both cities.
While talks with Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Perth have stalled, speculation has intensified in Australia that a deal with Gilbert & Tobin is still on the table.
The Sydney firm was launched as a telecoms and media boutique in 1988. It is now a full-service firm with more than 50 partners.
One Sydney-based source said: “They’re ideally set up to merge with a magic circle firm.”
While discussions with Cochrane Lishman have ended, sources in Perth said that a deal could still be possible, with the situation currently described as “up in the air”.
One Perth source said: “It’s true to say that with A&O [Allen & Overy] coming here and the investment there’s been in Western Australia, it’s something they [Clifford Chance] would like to do.”
A&O launched in Perth and Sydney earlier this year when it swooped for teams of lawyers from Clayton Utz and Freehills.
Norton Rose also established itself in Australia at the beginning of the year when its tie-up with Deacons went live.
Asked about Clifford Chance’s search for a merger target, another source revealed: “There’s no doubt Clifford Chance has been hard at it and has been for some time.”
Clifford Chance is thought to have pursued an Australian merger ever since informal talks with Mallesons Stephen Jacques concluded in 2008.
The firm declined to comment on the story.