Two already huge London megalaw firms are set to get even bigger

By on

Dentons to reach the 100 office mark, as Eversheds gears up to crack the US


UK commercial law giants Dentons and Eversheds have set their sights on international domination, with each of the firms pursuing separate mergers that could propel them to Coca-Cola and Pepsi levels of ubiquity.

The duo have expanded their cross-border reach dramatically over recent years, with Dentons’ growth being led by a recent tie-up with giant Chinese law firm Dacheng, which followed three successive mergers with French, Canadian and US firms. Meanwhile, Eversheds is being guided by what it terms a “2020 Vision” that has seen new outposts established across Africa and Europe.

And now both firms are set to get even bigger.

Dentons — which is now almost unrecognisable from its pre-2010 merger spree guise as Denton Wilde Sapte — has recently unveiled its new business venture, announcing a proposed three-way combination with Gadens, an Australian firm, and Rodyk & Davidson, a Singaporean firm.

Eversheds — which was forged over 20 years as a re-branded combination of lots of little national practices but is now a global megafirm — wants to hook up with US practice Foley & Lardner.

Dentons, in particular, is experiencing an incredible journey. These days the former mid-tier City player is the firm with the largest number of lawyers in the world — although at under $1 billion (£648 million) revenue remains less than half that of planet leaders DLA Piper and Baker & McKenzie — and it has more than 80 offices in over 50 countries. This places it in line with DLA Piper and Bakers in terms of geographical spread.

Those Dentons offices, by the way, are situated in some of the world’s most obscure locations: Turkmenistan, the Cape Verde Islands and even Milton Keynes.

Now through its latest tie-up Dentons is set to expand across Asia Pacific and enter Australia for the first time. This will add a total of 700 lawyers from Gadens and Rodyk Davidson, and could take Dentons’ office-count to over 100 — more than any other firm.

The proposed merger will only get the go-ahead once it has been subject to a partner vote across all three firms, set to take place later this month. If approved, the integration will begin in early 2016.

Compared to Dentons, global commercial firm Eversheds, which has 55 offices in 28 countries, seems almost small. But add the 20 offices of US firm Foley & Lardner, which it is currently courting, and the firm will be close in size to the world’s very biggest in office-count terms. Revenue, however, will be a long way off. Last year Eversheds turned over £379 million (£585 million) while Foley & Lardner did $665 million (£431 million).

For now, the deal remains incomplete. Though a merger may well seem imminent, Eversheds — whose core practice areas include real estate, patents, and environmental law — is keeping its cards close to its chest. A firm spokesperson told Legal Week:

While we appreciate that there will be speculation on our progress, a number of options remain open to us and until we are clear on the way forward it would be wholly inappropriate to comment further.

If the merger happens, Eversheds will bolt on Milwaukee-based Foley & Lardner’s multiple offices across North America, including Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Washington DC.

The ever-increasing scale of such firms may be an incentive to TC-hungry students keen to work for a growing international organisation, or a turn-off for those worried that size equates to facelessness. But students who land jobs at Dentons or Eversheds — which offer, respectively, 20 and 60 training contracts in the UK each year and by the accounts we have heard have pleasant London office cultures — at least have a high likelihood of getting to travel.



… yet, they are rubbish.


Interested questioner

Where do you work?



Probably DLA





Piper in Birmingham

Not sure why the DLA hate – they pay decent $$$. The question is: where do you work, pinhead?


Not in Brummie land.


Do you have any evidence?



Not rubbish at all, but not your Skadden or Slaughters either.

The question is: which firm’s bogs do you wipe up, glorious janitor?


Guru nana

Have a look at Dentons PPP in London, then consider it is the largest law firm in the world by number of lawyers (after it completes a very loose, non-merger merger with 1000s of chinese lawyers). Then consider what you’ve got.

You’ve got Woolworths.



Agreed, the firm is now slowly becoming your everyday Tesco Express.

Gadens is a respectable firm back in Oz and would be a good catch but after the bizarre Dacheng merger everything is possible with this firm.



Bakers is still the McDonalds of the legal world.


Guru nana

It once was, 20 years ago, but not now, and especially not so in the UK where PPP is high and much as I’d like to agree with you, they are in fact doing very well.

Better to fire shots at: Jones Day; DLA and firms like that. And of course Dentons.



Jones Day? Seriously?


SullCrom Swagg

Can’t say I agree with Jones Day – they’re a bunch of arrogant toff kunts, but definitely not there with Dentons in any stretch of imagination.


Murders & Executions

Jones Day? One of the most prestigious US law firms in the world? Are you joking?



Prestigious LOL

SullCrom Swagg

I’m afraid you misunderstood my comment – I said I wouldn’t agree with shots being fired on JonesDay as a ‘McDonalds’ of the legal world, implying they are rather good.

Attention to detail and reading comprehension doesn’t appear to be your strength. You’d fit in with the toffs at JD like a treat.


No way Foley & Lardner will tie up a turdpit like ‘Sheds. They’d be utterly mad.



You were right!



Everyone wishes they were Baker & McKenzie. Its regal. End of.


SullCrom Spaff

That’s the funniest thing I heard all day. I think I can even hear Skadden and Simpson Thatcher laughing in the distance.


Mr King & Ms Wood

Commentators said Dentons’ merger with the Chinese firm would threaten KWM’s status in Asia. At least KWM is playing it safe after its string of mergers and trying to push for integration and consistency instead hastily rushing off to the US market.



KWM is an utter mess of a merger as well. I’ve stopped counting how many partners decided to jump ship as a result of it here in London.

Good ol’ Stan Berwin is spinning in his grave.


Murders & Executions

Partner departures are common after a major merger. Further, you need to look at the context. KWM is undergoing a partner shake-up and reduced the time the firm needs to give notice to let the partner go, in hopes of getting rid of under-performers quickly. This, however, has slightly backfired with key partners also having the chance to leave earlier.

KWM is one of the best law firms in the Asia-Pacific. Yet to cement its position in the UK legal market however, but I’ll give it a few years before it turns things around. Even now, profits are rising in Asia, Australia and even in Europe. It is taking on more deals than most magic circle law firms in the Asia-Pacific as well. KWM is a relatively young firm — there is bound to be instability on the road to success.


News you don't hear everyday

Is Stephen Kon from KWM paying you to write this utter drivel? HSF and Allens are the strongest firms in Oz by far and KWM have been trailing them for years now, ever since the bizarre merger with that decrepit Chinese shop in 2012.

The partner defections are a continuing malaise of SJBerwin ever since the GFC hit their PE practice. The botched attempts to tie up with Mayer Brown, Orrick and Proskauer also didn’t help, so they quickly settled for KWM.



Ahem. Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison just called.



Murders & Executions

Mate, I am from Australia, not England. Just accepted my clerkship at Ashurst but had interviews at KWM and HSF. I can certainly tell you that HSF and KWM have long been seen as the two best law firms in Australia and also in Asia. Although, HSF is leading in deal count and revenue for the past financial year. Also, please, Allens? Their alliance with Linklaters has done nothing to raise its profile in Australia — everyone knows in Australia that Allens rides on Linklaters name without the added benefit.

Also, don’t quote Mean Girl’s line: “she doesn’t even go here”. I am hoping to do a secondment to London so that is why I read Legal Cheek.


Comments are closed.