Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski to merge from June 2013

Norton Rose is set to merge with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski from June next year, creating a 3,800 lawyer firm.

The merged entity, which will be known as Norton Rose Fulbright, will sit just outside the global top five law firms, with revenues of just under $2bn (£1.26bn).

The combined firm, which will go live on 1 June 2013, will have 55 offices, boosted by Fulbright’s 11 offices and 800 lawyers in the US.

In the states, the Norton Rose Group will now have added presences in Austin, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Pittsburgh-Southpointe, San Antonio, St Louis and Washington DC.

Norton Rose Fulbright will also have an office in Riyadh and additional strength in London, Dubai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Munich.

Norton Rose and Fulbright have been in merger talks for some while, with Legal Week first revealing Norton Rose was among the firms being pursued by Fulbright following a review of its international strategy back in September 2011. Norton Rose subsequently confirmed that it was holding discussions with the US law firm in May of this year.

Norton Rose’s partnership vote on the merger was held during the annual partnership conference in Toronto, which commenced 1 November, with 75% required to approve the tie-up. Fulbright held its vote over the past weekend.

In common with Norton Rose’s recent tie ups with Canadian outfit Macleod Dixon, which went live on 1 January this year, and its three-way combination with Canadian firm Ogilvy Renault and South African firm Deneys Reitz in 2011, the deal will be structured as a Swiss verein.

Norton Rose group chief executive Peter Martyr will be the global chief executive of the merged firm. The chair-elect of Fulbright, Ken Stewart, will serve as managing partner of the US operations and will take a senior position on Norton Rose Fulbright’s global executive committee.

In addition to Norton Rose’s existing sector focuses, the combined firm will add two new practices: healthcare and regulatory investigations.

Martyr (pictured) told Legal Week: “We have a very complementary client base – we share many key common clients. And one of the advantages of operating in a Swiss Verein structure is that we can focus on clients without being distracted by the need to rationalise the business.”

“We have been looking at the US market for a number of years, seeking a firm that meets our requirements for excellence in law, good business synergies and a compatible culture. Fulbright & Jaworski meets all our criteria; it is financially strong, with forward-looking management and similar strategic growth aspirations.

“As Norton Rose Fulbright, we will continue to invest in our strongest practice areas and develop our expertise across our key industry sectors. We also expect to continue extending our global business not only in the US, but in the emerging growth markets of the future, in particular in Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

Steven Pfeiffer, the chair of Fulbright’s executive committee, told Legal Week: “Norton Rose and Fulbright share remarkable similarities in practice strengths. We have had a good relationship for four or five years now and we have every certainty that the combination will be smooth and positive.”

One magic circle partner in management said: “To be fair to Norton Rose they have adopted a very consistent strategy and this is just the latest development. A US arm was always going to be necessary to make this strategy work so the tie-up seems sensible. It is hard to know who is benefiting more between Fulbright and Norton Rose and indeed between clients and the firm. It is going to require a huge amount of time and effort to make a firm of this size work.”