IN the largest deal ever of its kind to galvanise Singapore's legal realm, the city state's oldest law firm, Rodyk & Davidson, has struck a mammoth tie-up with the world's largest law firm, Dentons of the US, and Australian outfit Gadens to create a powerhouse with collective revenue of over US$2 billion.
Together with Dentons's soon-to-be completed combination with China's largest law practice, Dacheng, the three-way cross-border deal - it is already being touted as the biggest legal news in Singapore history by proponents - will create a firm with over 7,000 lawyers and offices in over 50 countries.
"This deal allows us to better serve our clients and more clients as our scope of work has become much more cross border in nature," Philip Jeyaretnam, managing partner of Rodyk & Davidson, told The Business Times.
If the proposed combination pans out, the firm will be renamed Dentons Rodyk and it will be part of a sprawling ever-expanding string of polycentric law firms, sans a headquarters, scattered across 125 locations across Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Russia, the Middle East, the UK, Canada and the US.
Both Rodyk and Gadens will also join Dentons' global board. All of the partners' voting processes on the deal is expected to be done by Nov 18. "This is a combination, not a merger. Rodyk will remain the same partnership practising as a member of Dentons and will retain autonomy, while exercising influence over the direction and character of the global firm as it goes forward," said Mr Jeyaretnam.
The proposed combination is based on a verein model, a flexible Swiss structure which allows profit pools and related tax to remain separate while allowing strategy, branding, information technology and other core functions to be integrated.
US giant Dentons, an expansion-hungry global firm credited for its bankruptcy and mergers and acquisitions practices, has been vigorously and quickly expanding its international footprint to build a megafirm in 2015, a record year for law firm mergers, going by published data.
In January, Dentons agreed to combine with Dacheng and once the deal is sealed, it will vault the firm to the world's top spot by lawyer headcount, overtaking Baker & McKenzie.
According to Joe Andrew, global chairman of Dentons, this coming together of law firms to widen their suite of legal offerings and clientele across the Asia-Pacific is less about "big is beautiful" and more about building a team of high quality lawyers.
"It's like a surgeon who has not only done a surgery once but a thousand times. We want to have legitimate talent in every given area and proud to do work for the smallest and biggest clients. It's not about headcount - that's just a by-product - but quality of service."
The pact's value proposition for Australia's leading law firm Gadens is clear enough too.
"Singapore is a hub, not a destination," said Gadens national chairman Ian Clarke, adding that the partnership will help the firm overcome the "tyranny of distance" that it faces as a firm based in Australia.
"Many clients in the energy and resources sectors have moved offices to Singapore and there's a significant amount of opportunity we can't take advantage of unless we have a strong connection in Singapore," he added.
Singapore's vaunted position in international arbitration - it was listed as the most improved seat in this space over the past five years by a recent study - has also made it a magnet for foreign law practices, many of which have tied up with local firms, as they seek to expand their presence in the region.
Mr Jeyaretnam said: "The fundamental question is how we can best achieve a true international reach and connectivity while maintaining our autonomy. We don't want to be an outpost of New York or London. We have found the compelling answers in this partnership where we can benefit from multiple connections."