Avoiding clashes in international networks

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy avoids rows among firms’ complex overseas networks

Aussie lawyers can be outspoken about their affection for their firm friends in Britain, but that candour is not always reciprocated.

Take Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) friendship with Australian mid-sized firm DibbsBarker. The latter is frank about its close working relationship with BLP and has even housed a secondee from the UK firm’s Singapore office.

It is understood the relationship grew out of DibbsBarker partner Tom Lennox’s friendship with BLP’s Singapore head Alistair Duffield.

However, not only does BLP refuse to talk about the relationship, a spokesperson emphasises that DibbsBarker is just one example of an outfit in its “preferred firms” network. And, they add, the firm works with more than one firm in Australia. So no merger talks there.

In fact, BLP has more than 100 ‘preferred firms’, but does not publicise their names.

Separately, few would be aware that Eversheds has a ‘best friends’ thing going with Australian firm Thomsons Lawyers that started 18 months ago.

There was no public announcement by either firm, yet Thomsons confirms there are a lot of referrals between the two. Managing partner Adrian Tembel says his firm will remain independent and continue its good relationship with Eversheds.

So why keep these relationships secret? It seems that conflict management comes into play and the Brits are concerned about upsetting other firms in their networks. How very discreet.