Weightmans follows DAC Beachcroft with new four-way international insurance alliance

Thomas-BrophyWeightmans is teaming up with law firms in the US, Canada and Spain to create a legal network for their insurance clients, just two months after DAC Beachcroft launched its own four-firm international network covering the US, Germany and Australia.

The new body, which will be called the Insurance Law Global (ILG) network, includes Weightmans, US firm Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, Spain’s Rodrigo Abogados and Toronto-based firm Blaney McMurty.

The network, which will operate on a non-exclusive basis, will help each firm’s respective clients navigate the challenges of globalisation and the ever-morphing political and environmental landscape, the firms said in a joint statement.

Weightmans initiated the formation of the network about a year ago, according to Thomas Brophy (pictured), president and CEO of Marshall Dennehey, a 482-lawyer firm with Philadelphia and New York roots.

“This was attractive to us because it enables us to network with firms in other countries, while maintaining our own presence and being able to stay focused on things we think we do best,” Brophy added.

Weightmans insurance head Kieran Jones said the intention was to expand the network during the next year.

“We are covering 29 cities and five countries at the moment and our intention is to extend that during the coming year.

“The first ports of call will be France and Germany and then we want to look at the Middle East, Asia and India,” he said.

“The legal services market – and the way in which our clients need us to work – is changing,” said a statement by Weightmans senior partner Dan Cutts. “By bringing together law firms with exceptional pedigree and experience in the global insurance market, we are formalising a collaborative approach to respond to the challenge.”

In the insurance market, companies have been consolidating their outside legal panels and choosing to work with firms that cover different specialities in significant geographic areas. As a result, regional firms have had to strengthen their efforts to provide a broader range of services to clients. Joining an international referral network was one way to do so, Brophy said.

“It’s a way to consolidate our resources, offer greater expertise and introduce our firms to one another’s clients, while at the same time maintaining our cultures, our resources and our talents,” Brophy said. He noted that the creation of the ILG network was not a prelude to a potential merger between the four firms.

Brophy acknowledged that DAC Beachcroft’s recently formed Legalign Global network helped spur his firm to undertake a similar initiative in order to preserve its corner of the insurance market.

The Legalign network is structured as a UK private company limited by guarantee, the same structure used in recent mergers between Eversheds and Sutherland Asbill & Brennan and last year’s tie-up between Gowlings and Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co.

Jones said the firms in the ILG Network have not gone down that route, instead signing a formal agreement establishing the network.

“We will keep our options open to see if we have a separate legal entity that owns the brand,” he added.

Weightmans, which posted record revenues of £95.1m for 2015-16, is currently in merger talks with Newcastle-based firm Ward Hadaway, a deal that could create a firm with combined turnover of around £130m.