Legal services globalisation branded ‘irreversible’

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Allen & Overy Australian managing partner Grant Fuzi has told Australasian Lawyer the business of law will continue to globalise as part of an ‘irreversible’ global trend.

Following the promotion of the first two local lawyers to the firm's global partnership in February, Fuzi said Australian lawyers will increasingly be practicing in a more globalised legal environment.

“Our view is that globalisation is an irreversible trend, and I don’t see any reason for the global nature of the work we do or the world we live in to suddenly change,” Fuzi said.

“Cross-border activity and global clients looking to our market is now a matter of fact and the legal market has evolved to align with that and I personally see that need growing.”

Recently, discussion at an Australian managing partner’s forum touched on the possibility of up to seven global law firms launching in Sydney in the next few years. Likewise, consolidation of the industry was discussed by delegates, with predictions that the top 30 global firms could combine thorugh mergers to become 10 or below.

Fuzi said in a globalising environment there is room for many different types of legal service offerings – as long as they are clear on their value proposition.

This includes boutiques, many of whom Fuzi said are able to do a ‘fantastic’ job, if they are providing clients with quality advice and are clear on the value proposition and services they offer.

“You have to be clear to clients on the value proposition you deliver to them, and that translates into what you are offering your staff in terms of career opportunities,” Fuzi said.

Allen & Overy was one of the first global firms to launch in Australia, when it surprised the local market by raiding local firm Clayton Utz for an initial batch of 14 partners.

However, Fuzi said he is unsure if Australia will see more international law firm entrants. “We have all heard those rumours of this one or that one opening, but I really don’t know,” he said.

Fuzi said some firms with focused offerings - such as potential entrant Pinsent Masons and Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan have been the more interesting local developments of late. “Whether we see more of that, I think it is possible, but your guess is as good as mine.”

Commenting on the promotion of Sydney-based litigation specialist Michael Shepherd and Perth finance and projects lawyer David Christensen to the partnership, Fuzi said that it proved the global partnership viewed Australia positively.

“If we had not proven the value the Australian business adds to our global and regional platform, we would not have had support of the global partners to invest, and we are thankful the partners have backed us; that is really satisfying for us,” he said.

The promotions are also proof of the quality of lawyers in Australia, Fuzi claims. “On a global scale they are world class and we think the gene pool has been proved as good as anywhere in the world.”

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