Norton Rose Fulbright is now official. The anticipated tie up between London-based Norton Rose and Texas-based Fulbright & Jaworski has gone live as of Monday, June 3. As reported in a recent article by Brian Baxter of AmLaw Daily, Fulbright is now the most recent AmLaw 100 firm to ink a deal with one of London’s top international firms. The move creates what Baxter calls another true “giant”, as the new Norton Rose Fulbright is now the world’s third largest law firm—with more than 3,800 lawyers and offices in over 50 cities around the globe. In the move, Fulbright will be dropping the name “Jaworski”, the name of one of its late founding partners Leon Jaworski, a man once known around Texas as the youngest lawyer in the state.
Mergers have become the norm for Norton Rose in recent years. Says Baxter, “In 2010, Norton Rose picked up Canada’s Ogilvy Renault and South Africa’s Deneys Reitz, while merging with Calgary-based energy shop Macleod Dixon” in 2011. The move to add Fulbright & Jaworski into the mix in 2013 further solidifies the firm’s diverse international platform, and brings enhanced stability and prominence by tapping into deep roots in the US market. Seeking strong US-based merger partners has also been the strategy of various other leading London firms, including the likes of Hogan Lovells, DLA Piper, Clifford Chance and SNR Denton (now Dentons).
Baxter interviewed Ward Bower of Altman Weil, who helped shed some light on why the move has been found so appealing for many US-based firms. Says Bower, “There’s a saying that if you buy in London, you get Europe for free.” In many ways, that may be true. However, starting to build from the ground up can be difficult. In addition to troubles finding space in London’s Old City neighborhood, where almost all of the top law firms are based, Bower adds it is “just too hard to build from scratch in London.” So many firms end up buying their way in, with the added benefit of much easier access to the rest of Europe. Or in the case of Norton Rose—to the rest of the world.
It will be interesting to see which and how many other top London and US firms seek to join forces in the years to come.