Legal Business

Merger watch – Norton Rose Fulbright Dubai team in talks to join rival


It’s a cliché that you can’t do large legal mergers without some fallout, a truism that Norton Rose Fulbright now has the chance to contemplate, as it emerges that its Festival Towers Dubai office is likely to move in the wake of its merger this month.

Dubai is one of the few international jurisdictions where Norton Rose and US partner Fulbright & Jaworski had overlapping offerings, which has resulted in a clash of personalities. The two firms combined on 3 June forging a top 10 global practice in revenue terms.

The fifteen-lawyer legacy Fulbright branch is led by corporate and banking partner John Boehm. Eight of the ten lawyers are partners who between them cover dispute resolution, corporate and banking.

The legacy Norton Rose DIFC arm has 21 lawyers in total, including 10 partners, covering dispute resolution, corporate, banking, Islamic finance and projects.

The Fulbright team is understood to be in talks to join another firm, with the front-runner cited as 700-lawyer Houston practice Baker Botts, which already has a 13-lawyer Dubai arm. The top 100 US law firm also has offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.

Before the merger Fulbright had international offices in Hong Kong, Munich, Beijing and Riyadh, where Norton Rose did not have an office. The pair have already physically consolidated offices in London, Beijing and Hong Kong and plan to do so with Munich later in the year. A partner told Legal Business that Dubai was the only location where Norton Rose Fulbright anticipated such potential fallout.

Large international mergers often experience significant departures where offices overlap, as was the case with the 2010 tie-up of Lovells and Hogan & Hartson.

So far the Norton Rose Fulbright union has been generally welcomed by its partners, though there has been some focus on the integration of its two London offices. A handful of London-based Fulbright partners are remaining part of Fulbright’s partnership, an arrangement the firm says is due to transitional tax arrangements rather than lack of enthusiasm for the deal.

Norton Rose declined to comment.