Herbert Smith merger to form top 10 law firm

Elizabeth Fournier
CITY law firm Herbert Smith announced yesterday that it is to merge with Australia’s Freehills, in a tie-up that will create one of the world’s top 10 law firms by headcount.

Herbies, which employs more than 700 lawyers in its London offices, will combine with the Australian firm to create a business with historic joint revenues of more than $1.3bn in the biggest legal merger for 12 years. The combined firm will be known as Herbert Smith Freehills, and operate across 20 global offices.

It will be lead by Herbert Smith’s managing partner David Willis and his equivalent at Freehills, Gavin Bell, who will be co-chief executives of the 2,800-strong lawyer firm. Yesterday Willis told City A.M. that a vote among partners had shown “overwhelming support” for the merger, which will see the two firms share a single profit pool.

Willis also said Freehills’ Australian experience would allow the firm to increase its capacity to take on large cross-border deals, particularly in the lucrative Asia Pacific market. There are also plans to open a New York office in the autumn, and an application for a South Korean licence is underway.

The merger is expected to be completed by 1 October this year.