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Dentons Australia tie-up delayed as Melbourne office expected to break off

Dentons is still working to finalise its tie-up with Australian firm Gadens almost a year after announcing the merger, and has confirmed Gadens’ Melbourne office is now unlikely to join.

IT issues, intellectual property considerations and the Australian firm’s structure have slowed the process, which was announced in November last year.

At the time, Dentons said it had completed votes on a three-way tie up with Singaporean firm Rodyk & Davidson and Gadens in a move the firms said would ‘create the Pacific Rim’s leading global law firm’.

The Rodyk combination was completed after five months, as the 200-lawyer Singaporean firm joined as Dentons Rodyk in April. However, the Gadens merger has yet to be completed although the tie-up is expected go through before the end of the year without the firm’s Singapore and Melbourne offices.

In May, Nabarro hired the firm’s Singapore managing partner Marc Rathbone, causing Gadens to close the office.

Gadens is a 500-lawyer firm with offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. However the federalised structure of the firm with separate partnerships at the different offices has made it difficult to bring them all on board.

Dentons global chair Joe Andrew told Legal Business the firm’s Melbourne office was also unlikely to come on board as the deal finalised. ‘The firm has a federated system. One office we identified that would not join in the same way was Melbourne.’

Gadens has since joined Dentons’ Nextlaw Global Referral Network, which could give any spin-off offices access to the network.

Andrew (pictured) added combining the two firms’ technology and IP had also slowed the process: ‘We had to make all this work using our and their tech teams. It has taken longer than we anticipated.’

A spokesperson added: ‘Dentons recognises that each market is different and that local offices are best positioned to determine the approach that is best for them and their clients. Those approaches, and their benefits to clients, will be clear when Dentons Australia launches in the fourth quarter of this year.’

Last year, Dentons combined with Chinese giant Dacheng in January and US firm McKenna Long & Aldridge in April. The Singaporean and Australian mergers will give the firm more than 7,300 lawyers worldwide.

Read more on Dentons in the feature: ‘The pitch’ – A new kind of global law firm emerges but can Dentons live up to the hype?