A dismissed also-ran, Dentons has improbably reinvented itself as a pioneer taking legal globalisation to new heights. Critics snipe but can the firm live up to the soaring rhetoric?
‘We’ve obviously grown faster than any law firm ever,’ says Dentons’ iconoclastic chair Joe Andrew as he loads up a presentation designed for potential global suitors. Sitting alongside chief executive and friend Elliott Portnoy they make a slick pair, unsurprising given that this presentation has been practised on more than 100 law firm leaders around the world. The batting average was impressive in 2015. In a breakthrough year, six law firms across the US, China, Australia, Singapore, Colombia and Mexico agreed to join Dentons in a spree without precedent in the legal industry. A law firm written off as a global player in most quarters had become on some measures the world’s largest firm. Actually, it achieved that distinction less than a month into 2015 with the headline-grabbing tie-up with 4,000-lawyer Chinese giant Dacheng. Many in the profession are quick to predict a dramatic fall for this empire but everyone is talking about a firm that two years ago didn’t get a second thought.