Norton Rose Fulbright votes through Australian merger

Norton Rose Fulbright’s merger with Australian firm Henry Davis York has been given the go-ahead by both partnerships.

In a joint statement, the firms confirmed the merger has been approved by both sides, with an overwhelming majority said to have voted for the union.

The details of the merger, such as an official launch date, are still being finalised but the combination is expected to complete within this year. Henry Davis York will lose its name following the deal, as the combined firm will be known as Norton Rose Fulbright.

The merger marks Norton Rose Fulbright’s third merger in nine months – it acquired 54-partner Canadian firm Bull Housser last September and is set to tie-up with New York-based Chadbourne & Parke this year.

It is also the most recent global merger in Australia, following Dentons’ launch in Australia last December when it acquired the Sydney and Perth offices of local firm Gadens.

“There is a sense of real momentum in our global business right now,” said Norton Rose Fulbright global chief executive Peter Martyr.

“The addition of Henry Davis York will give us the critical mass we need in Australia to take full advantage of the steps already underway, at a global level, to modernise our business through the implementation of our 2020 business transformation strategy. This combination will allow us to bring the benefits of this transformation to more clients,” he added.

The two firms initiated the merger talks in the second half of 2016. It was understood that the discussions came to a halt at the beginning of this year but resumed soon after.

Norton Rose Fulbright is thought to have been attracted by Henry Davis York’s banking and finance practice, particularly its restructuring and insolvency group. The Sydney-headquartered firm’s relationship with several key banking clients, such as Westpac Bank, is also said to have been desirable.

The deal will grant Henry Davis York access to Norton Rose Fulbright’s newly expanded global network and a strong base in Melbourne, where it currently doesn’t have an office.

According to The Lawyer’s Asia Pacific 100 2017 report, Henry Davis York is the 19th largest firm in Australia with 180 lawyers, including 40 partners. The combined firm will have about 160 partners and nearly 600 lawyers in Australia.

Norton Rose Fulbright’s Australia arm has seen a stream of partner departures over the past year. Most recently, its Asia Pacific technology business group leader Michael Park left for Allens, Brisbane-based infrastructure and projects partner Joshua Paffey joined Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and M&A partner Michael Joyce moved to Singapore to join US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.