Dentons has officially launched its free to use Nextlaw Global Referral Network signing up 283 member firms and around 18,600 lawyers. A total of 13 UK firms have signed up, with the major UK firms being Scottish firms Shepherd and Wedderburn and MacRoberts.
The referral network, which will provide services in 160 countries, was announced last May. Dentons said the network differs from ‘pay-to-play’ legal referral networks by not charging membership fees or offering territorial exclusivity.
Dentons’ launch gives Nextlaw the largest global referral by firm numbers. The firm is also the largest law firm in the world by lawyer headcount since its tie-up with Chinese firm Dacheng in early 2016.
However, other membership-based platform networks represent more lawyers at fewer firms. Lex Mundi has around 160 law firms representing around 21,000 lawyers, while TerraLex has more than 150 firms with around 19,000 lawyers.
Dentons global chief executive Elliott Portnoy (pictured left) said: ‘Each member firm has been thoroughly vetted for quality and we continue to build a global community of law firms with on objective in mind – to provide our respective clients with the very best service available anywhere.’
Any firm in the world was able to apply for membership of the network and applicants were vetted by a panel of Dentons partners, partners of other member firms and general counsel. Current and future applicants are evaluated on client feedback, third-party rankings, awards and sector expertise.
However the firm’s network has come under some criticism from traditional legal network providers, claiming the system will not offer the same level of services or effectively vet members.
In June, TerraLex chief executive Harry Trueheart publically questioned the Dentons model, stating: ‘It is interesting that at a time many clients are deeply engaged in reducing the number of law firms they use in recognition of the disadvantages of managing large numbers of relationships, Dentons is advocating the advantages of a massive, apparently minimally managed network.’