Legal Business Blogs

Dentons to enter New Zealand legal market through merger with 100-lawyer Kensington Swan

Dentons is to grow its global headcount further past the 10,000-lawyer mark after announcing a merger with 113-strong full-service New Zealand firm Kensington Swan.

The combination, announced today (31 July) and subject to approval by partners, will see Dentons enter the New Zealand legal market, with offices in Auckland and Wellington, nearly three years after launching in Australia.

The tie-up will mean Dentons’ regional headcount will pass the 500-lawyer mark and was a long time in the making, with the two firms having been in merger talks for about a year. The partnerships are expected to approve the move by mid-August.

‘There are close synergies between the [Australian and New Zealand] economies in relation to the agricultural base, financial base, manufacturing base and mining resources,’ Dentons Australia region chief executive Doug Stipanicev told Legal Business. ‘They are both Commonwealth countries and very closely aligned economies. There is a natural synergy between our clients in Australia investing in New Zealand and what will become our clients in New Zealand investing in Australia’.

Dentons already has a small base in Auckland, launched in 2018 and staffed by four patent attorneys, but with no lawyers practising local law.

The global giant first entered the Australasian region in 2016 by merging with Australian firm Gadens. Announced in November 2015 as part of a three-way union that also included Singaporean practice Rodyk & Davidson, the deal had run into delays over the partnership structure of the Australian firm, which operated different financial centres across its network.

In December 2016 three of Gadens’ six offices finally joined Dentons – Perth, Sydney and Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea.

In the following two-and-a-half years the firm grew its footprint to 450 lawyers, launching in Melbourne in November 2017 and in Brisbane the following year. In 2018 it also hired 17 partners from ailing Australian shop DibbsBarker, while earlier this year it absorbed Adelaide-based Fisher Jeffries, adding another 13 partners.