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Dentons has severed ties in China, resulting in its lawyer count halving in size.
Dentons combined with mega Chinese firm Dacheng in 2015, which has offices in more than 40 locations across China. The launch was accompanied with a big fanfare as Dentons ballooned to 6,000 lawyers, becoming the world's largest firm by headcount. The firm continued to expand, reaching over 12,000 lawyers this year.
The split from Dacheng, effective from 7 August, means that Dentons has now shrunk to a mere 5,970 lawyers, with around 12,550 staff in total. But, if size matters, Dentons can still boast that it's the world's largest firm by people. It remains a behemoth, albeit a slimmed-down one.
The tie-up with Dacheng provided Dentons' clients with a one stop shop in the region, as foreign lawyers are not allowed to provide domestic legal advice in China. When Dentons announced the combination eight years ago, it said that it would have sophisticated systems in place to ensure that "only lawyers and professionals who need to know the client's business" would be able to access the data.
However, it seems that the Dentons firewall was about to have its work cut out. In a statement about its departure from China, the firm said that "In response to recent Chinese government mandates on Chinese law firms, including those relating to cybersecurity and data protection, Dentons is modifying its relationship with Beijing Dacheng Law Offices, the Chinese legal partnership that has been a member of the Dentons Group since 2015".
Following the combination the firms adopted a verein structure, meaning there was a single brand, but their finances were kept separate.
But now, back-pedaling out of the country, Dentons has said that "Moving forward, 大成 (Dacheng) will operate as a separate, standalone law firm that will serve as Dentons’ preferred law firm for clients with legal needs in China. While our legal relationship is changing, we will continue working together to meet our clients’ needs across China and the 80+ countries where Dentons does business".
In what sounds like a similar pact, Eversheds Sutherland announced last month that it had agreed a deal with China's King & Wood Malleson, where the two firms will refer legal work to one another.
A Dentons spokeswoman also confirmed to RollOnFriday that the firm is modifying its logo. Outside of mainland China the firm will no longer include the Chinese characters in the Dentons logo, she said.