Norton Rose expands as buys up rivals

Marion Dakers
CITY law firm Norton Rose has taken over two rival firms, in a move that adds more than 650 lawyers to its payroll and takes annual turnover above $1bn (£622m) for the first time.

Canadian firm Ogilvy Renault and Deneys Reitz, which is based in South Africa, will adopt the Norton Rose name from 1 June 2011, taking the total number of lawyers in the group to 2,500, with 750 partners across 38 offices on five continents.

There will be no immediate staff transfers, but the firm expects large numbers of staff to move between offices in the long term, echoing Norton Rose’s merger with Australia-based Deacons at the start of the year. Partners at both firms approved the deal in June.

The managing partner of Ogilvy Renault, John Coleman, and the deputy chairman of Deneys Reitz, Rob Otty, will join the group’s executive committee.

Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr said: “Canada and South Africa are increasingly influential economies for our clients in the energy and natural resources, infrastructure, technology and financial institutions sectors.

“Ogilvy Renault and Deneys Reitz give the group increased strength and depth of resource and expertise in these sectors,” he added.

Several London law firms have a presence in Africa, including Eversheds and DLA Piper, though the deal is thought to be the first full merger between a UK and a South African firm.

Deneys Reitz is one of the largest commercial law firms in the country, with a particular focus on international financial services.

Norton Rose announced a nine per cent increase in revenue for the first half of the financial year last week, with fee income rising to £155m, following last year’s two per cent drop in annual revenue to £307m.

The group said strong performance in the Middle East and Asia had driven growth.
Norton Rose also announced a tie-up with Australia’s eighth largest law firm Deacons in Australia last June.