After months of speculation, Allens Arthur Robinson and Linklaters have confirmed to much fanfare that they are entering into an exclusive alliance.

The new relationship, snappily-dubbed an "integrated global alliance", falls short of a full merger. Presumably the rather disparate profits per partner - Links' partners pocketed £1.2m ($1.9m) in 2011, dwarfing Allens'  $1.1m (£700k)) - ruled out a full tie up. Instead, from 1 May, the firms will integrate processes and financials on a project by project basis. The pair will form a joint venture in Asia for energies, projects and infrastructure work and a seperate Indonesian venture. And Allens, the minnow in the relationship, will drop its "Arthur Robinson" to become simply Allens.

    Allens and Linklaters celebrating their exclusive relationship yesterday (how it might have looked)

Inevitably the usual "good cultural fit", "cultural synergy" and "strength of brand" clichés have been wheeled out and both firms stress the benefit for clients of their exanded reach. No doubt the new relationship gives Links a boost in the lucrative Asia region, especially South East Asia where Allens has built up a decent presence. As for Allens, it gets the prestige of a special relationship with a Magic Circle firm and the chance to get its hands on more international work. Which is all very nice for them but has left Slaughters, which had a longstanding referral relationship with Allens, out in the cold.

As all the big Australian firms start to get snapped up by international firms, there are fewer and fewer singletons left. Herbert Smith is continuing its dance with Freehills, but other international firms eyeing up a piece of the Asian pie may increasingly feel they have missed the boat.
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