Big Bang in the legal marketplace

Jordan Furlong and others (such as The American Lawyer, LegalWeek and the Financial Post) report on the bombshell announcement by UK-based global law firm Norton Rose that it is merging with South Africa's Deneys Reitz and Canada's Ogilvy Renault. The news is something of a Big Bang in Canada, with echoes around the world.

There are several impacts of this merger. Naturally, the obvious risk for client and partner losses for the existing Canadian law firms, but also a more strategic and management impact: as Financial Post's Mitch Kowalski points out, "Norton Rose brings unprecedented financial transparency as well as superior knowledge management and online services to Canada". All of this changes the law firm marketplace and the grounds for competition.

Jordan Furlong also adds to other impacts from the merger. "The first is the fact that a precedent for global mergers has now been set. But there is something else to think about: Norton Rose is on a major expansion tear. So we're learning that global platform matters, and global capacity matters, and maybe above all, global brand matters. But we might also keep this in mind: the Alternative Business Structure provisions of the UK's Legal Services Act come into effect next fall, and any law firm aiming to be a global powerhouse would want to consider all available options to finance and pursue such a strategy."

Is this merger a premonition of how the non-lawyer equity provisions of the Legal Services Act can be taken advantage of to collect private capital from investment banks to acquire talent create advanced online service infrastructure and to market its brand aggressively in multiple jurisdictions? This is something that Jordan Furlong discussed on a presentation on key trends in the legal marketplace to a Canadian law society earlier this fall as a hypothetical future development, but as Jordan now says "that scenario stopped being hypothetical yesterday".

And after Canada, could Scandinavia be the next place for this kind of news and scenario?

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