Top firms resume merger talks, decision expected within weeks

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Australia will find out in a matter of weeks whether its legal industry will have another major merger on its hands.

Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) and Henry Davis York (HDY) are back on the negotiation table, a report from The Australian Financial Review said.

Both firms were reported last November to be in talks – but NRF is said to have withdrawn from negotiations in February. Talks apparently resumed about a month ago, and a decision is expected just weeks away.

The report comes after HDY made redundant six fee-earning lawyers and 19 other employees last month. The merger is seen to both benefit NRF and HDY, which the publication said are “navigating a more challenging earnings environment.”

In March, Ashurst hired NRF mergers and acquisitions partner Nigel Deed. A month later, it announced a revamp of its Asia management. That same month, Corrs Chambers Westgarth scored infrastructures and projects partner Joshua Paffey and his team from NRF. In May, Allens appointed partner Michael Park, who was NRF’s former Asia Pacific technology group leader and Australian privacy practice head.

The merger would enlarge the operations of NRF in Australia. The firm has offices in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and Sydney, and some 120 local partners. Specialist commercial firm HDY has nearly 50 partners.

The renewed negotiations also come after NRF finalised a merger with US BigLaw outfit Chadbourne & Parke in February. The two firms are expected to complete the deal in the next few weeks.

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