Freehills and Herbert Smith reported to be ready to vote on hookup
18 May 2012
Freehills and Herbert Smith are reported to be readying themselves for a partnership vote on a merger, with insiders suggesting it could be as soon as next month.
The legal market has been beset with rumours of a tie-up
between the Australian and the UK firm since late last year, although both firms have remained coy about their flirtation. In January 2012, the pair reportedly circulated firm-wide emails informing staff about the potential tie-up. And now, according to Legal Week, discussions have gone well enough for a partner vote to be scheduled in mid-June. Although it's reported this will happen in mid-June, Herbies is remaining schtum. And Freehills maintains that, whilst there is "considerable interaction
" between the firms (saucy), as yet "there is no confirmation of a timeframe for a partner vote
||Considerable interaction yesterday |
So what might a new Herbert Smith Freehills (FreeHerb) look like? Despite being the second biggest Australian firm by revenue, 980 lawyer-strong Freehills would be the junior member of the partnership. Freehills' 2010/11 turnover of $511m (£318m) falls short of Herbies' £488m ($782m) turnover. And 13-office Herbert Smith also boasts more lawyers with 1,347 (although recent redundancies
may reduce this) to Freehills' 980. It remains to be seen whether the firms are considering a full-on merger or whether they'd follow the trend for non-profit sharing alliances, with closer cooperation in Asia (in the Allens/Linklaters mould).
For the moment it's a case of watch this space. But if it does go ahead it will be an interesting merger. More cynical souls have suggested that a possible union smacks
rather of desperation given Herbies' public dumping by its European
partners and Freehills' failure to attract a Magic Circle mate. But maybe the pair really has found true love.