Specialist firms the next wave of entrants to the AU legal market, predicts managing partner

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Full-service firms have made up the majority of international players entering the Australian legal market, but according to one managing partner, specialist overseas firms will increasingly be tapping into opportunities Down Under.
In a recent interview with Australasian Lawyer magazine, Bird & Bird’s Australia managing partner Shane Barber predicted that generalist firms are unlikely to account for many more of the international entrants to Australia.

“From here on in we will continue to see international firms coming into the market, but we should expect that those firms won’t be generalist firms,” he says.
“Increasingly they’ll be specialist firms in different areas, and we’re already seeing that with Quinn Emanuel in relation to litigation, and Seyfarth Shaw in relation to employment law, Bird & Bird in relation to intellectual property, Clyde & Co in relation to insurance.”
Barber’s prediction is based on Truman Hoyle’s recent merger with Bird & Bird; a combination that he believes is emblematic of the shift in the type of international entrants to the Australian legal market.
After signing a cooperation agreement with Bird & Bird in March 2013, Truman Hoyle confirmed the merger in October this year.
Larger Australian firms are no stranger to merger enquiries from international firms and Truman Hoyle was no exception. Although some queries led to more detailed discussions with a couple of firms, Truman Hoyle’s previous international suitors were more generalist corporate firms, rather than IP and IT specialists.
“The narrative has to work for both firms,” Barber said. “For us, we’re very much a specialist new-economy legal and regulatory advisory firm. Bird & Bird is very much that on a global scale. The merger with Bird & Bird makes sense at every level.”