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Legacy Norton Rose partnership given limited voting rights on Chadbourne merger

Partners at legacy Norton Rose‘s European business will get a limited vote on the firm’s next potential US merger with New York firm Chadbourne & Parke, Legal Business understands.

Instead of being able to vote on the union with Chadbourne, Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) European partners, which vote early next week, will only be able to decide on whether partners from Chadbourne’s European offices join the firm.

Under verein structure of NRF, which treats the different member firms as separate businesses for legal purposes, the deal will only see partners under the US arm of the firm voting on a union with Chadbourne.

Despite the size of the merger, which would see NRF combine with Chadbourne’s $250m global business, the deal is being worked out in the US with limited input from senior partners in the European arm of the firm. Chadbourne has around 300 lawyers in the US, while NRF has close to 700.

Last year’s deal which saw NRF’s Canadian arm merge with Vancouver firm Bull, Housser & Tupper was also not subject to a firmwide vote. Two senior partners at legacy Norton Rose told Legal Business the European firm was not expected to vote on the merger. A spokesperson for the firm refused to comment on the voting process.

Last week, NRF’s European arm reported a turnover boost of nearly 11% – up to £434m for 2015/16 from £319m the previous year. The global firm saw turnover slip around 3% in dollar terms for 2015 to $1.7bn.

A statement from NRF global managing partner Peter Martyr (pictured) and US managing partner Daryl Lansdale said: ‘We believe that the combination would provide an even stronger global platform for our clients, who would also benefit from our compatibility in both practice and industry focus. We will make no further comment on this matter until discussions with our partnership have concluded.’

A spokesperson from Chadbourne confirmed the talks: ‘A prospective union with Norton Rose Fulbright has the potential to enhance our capabilities and add tremendous value for the clients of both firms, but there are still a number of considerations left in this process, and it is premature to discuss these in any detail. We hope to have something to report on this soon.’

Read more in: ‘On the bus – Inside the Norton Rose Fulbright masterplan’