Deacons Asia and Australia in talks to create full merger HK Johnson Stokes hires fund partner

Deacons Asia and Deacons Australia are in merger talks which if successful will create one of the largest firms in the Asia Pacific region.

Although the firms share the same name, they are separate partnerships that work in association. It is hoped that the deal will be completed within the next year.

The Deacons alliance was established 10 years ago by US firm Graham & James, Australian-based Sly & Weigall and Hong Kong practice Deacons. The Australian and Hong Kong arms subsequently changed their names to Deacons Graham & James.

This year has seen significant changes for the Deacons group. In the spring, Deacons Asia and Deacons Australia split from Graham & James and reverted to the name Deacons (The Lawyer, 24 April).

Deacons Australia then entered talks with big five

accountant Deloitte & Touche (The Lawyer, 8 May). Although these collapsed, it went on to merge with fellow Australian practice Dunhill Madden Butler (The Lawyer, 26 June).

On the possible Deacons tie-up, Asia managing partner Mark Roberts says: “The benefits are in becoming the number one Asian law firm, because with the strength of numbers we’ll have a large pool of talented, mobile lawyers. It’s one of the reasons that we’ve been in association.”

He adds that another US link-up is still on the agenda. “We would be looking to merge but not to form an association in the future. The Graham & James experience proved that association doesn’t work.”

The firm is talking to about five US firms. Roberts says that the plan to merge the two Deacons will not necessarily aid a US merger. “For some [US firms] it will be attractive, for some it will be less so. For global firms Australia adds something, but for some it will be too big a bite,” he says.