What’s the deal with… Dentons merging with 21 firms?

So last week it emerged that Dentons, already the biggest law firm in the world, is currently in merger negotiations with 21 firms around the globe. 

That’s a lot of firms…

Yes it is. Dentons has a fairly long track record of mergers, dating back to when Denton Hall merged with fellow Londoner Wilde Sapte in 2000.

The current ‘Dentons project’ really began in 2010, though, with Denton Wilde Sapte’s merger with US firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosen (don’t call it a merger though)

Then came a three-way tie-up with Salans and Fraser Milner Casgrain in 2013. This year, the combined firm merged with China’s Dacheng to create the world’s largest firm by headcount – before sealing a merger with US firm McKenna Long & Aldridge around three months later.

Where is Dentons looking to grow?

According to CEO Elliott Portnoy and chairman Joe Andrew, the firm is looking to expand in its existing markets and set down roots in the locations where it doesn’t have a presence.

The firm’s focus will turn to Latin America, Japan and Australia, where it has no offices.

Portnoy and Andrew openly discussed their aspirations to grow in places like Spain and Germany, where they also have offices. 

What does this mean for the culture of the firm?

The recent additions of Dacheng and McKenna Long have seen the firm’s figures jump to 6,600 lawyers worldwide, with more than 1,100 of them based in the US. Both Portnoy and Andrew have said that the firm’s board will have fair representation from the regions that the firm is in, with no region overpowering the board in order to maintain its polycentric model.

Dentons argues that firm mergers are less risky than lateral hires, which is why it has decided to opt for whole firms rather than individuals.

Are they REALLY going to merge with 21 other firms?

It’s not likely. Many firms enter into merger negotiations that don’t end up bearing fruit – but where there is a will, there is definitely a way.

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