Denton Hall extends European network with Swedish alliance

Denton Hall has brought Swedish firm Wistrand into its international alliance – a further sign that northern Europe is becoming an increasingly unified market.

Denton International chairman James Dallas says: “It is another important step forward in our drive to become a pan-European network.”

Denton International now has interests in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Austria, France, Germany and Spain.

Peter Hedborg, the Gothenburg-based chairman of Wistrand, comments: “We have had an informal contract for more than a year, but now the alliance has been formalised. My understanding is that the concept is aiming at a closer relationship.

“Globalisation is at work in Sweden as in other markets, and this is the right move for us.”

However, to Hans Bagner, senior partner at Sweden's biggest firm Vinge, Denton's choice of alliance partner comes as a surprise. Landahl & Wistrand split in two last year, with most partners joining Wistrand, which reverted to its original name in January.

Denton International spokesperson John Griffiths-Jones says Wistrand remains a national firm. He is not worried by the split: “The situation is completely clear and we are totally comfortable with it.

“We are simply applying in Sweden the formula for membership which has provided the criterion ever since Denton International's formation: local reputation, strength and scale.

“Wistrand has a strong client base and a good general corporate and commercial reputation. It is historically known for insolvency and restructuring work.”

Wistrand's Stockholm office opened two years ago, but with only 17 lawyers, including nine partners, it is not big enough to compete with leading Swedish firms, according to Bagner.

Wistrand has 47 lawyers in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo.

Swedish legal experts do not expect the move to put Wistrand in a serious position to compete on big transactions, although a source says it may spur the firm's expansion. “I do not want to underestimate it,” says Bagner.

US firms Baker & McKenzie and White & Case have already successfully entered the Swedish legal market. Meanwhile, Linklaters and its Swedish alliance partner Lagerlof & Lehman will merge in two years' time.