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In-house legal jobs in switch around as Linklaters partners up with Allens Asia

Posted by: Laurence Simons 11/09/12

In April, Australian firm Allens announced its intention to wind down four of its Asian offices before the end of 2012 after tying up a partnership deal with Linklaters earlier this year. But that was in April. And like an unconvincing couple announcing their engagement over Facebook, nobody was really going to take it seriously until they moved in together.

Well, start taking it seriously, because this love is for real. As The Lawyer reports, partners at Asian offices in Beijing and Shanghai are getting ready to relocate after Linklaters made a big show of cutting Allens a spare key to its centralised location in mainland China. 

But the move hasn't been as smooth as it could be. A number of Allens Asia partners have resigned from the firm since the deal was struck earlier this year, with Hong Kong disputes resolution partners Simon McConnell and Mun Yeow resolving to leave the firm without dispute and join Clyde & Co instead.

Meanwhile, despite offices in Vietnam and Mongolia being unaffected, partners at offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Singapore will be expected to relocate as part of a big new project. But there's no huge rush - those still staring misty-eyed at pictures of their ex over in the Hong Kong office have until the lease expires at the end of the year to move in with Linklaters.

"We are committed to co-locating in Asia, but really there is no definite timetable," said Allens partner Nic Tole. "It would involve Hong Kong and Beijing, subject to the practicalities of each place. There is no specific timeframe."

So what's the point of this upping of sticks? A new joint venture, that's what. Launching a JV in the east was the primary aim of the alliance when it was originally formed in April, and once the initial partnership went live in May the firms launched another venture in Indonesia. If you're still thinking in metaphors: the joint venture is like a honeymoon baby.

Both Allens and Linklaters are keen to stress that this thing they are doing is not a full merger, no, it's just an alliance, but the joint venture is firmly part of the du jour practice among Magic Circle firms this year to buddy up with international partners, combining both expertise and revenue streams. One look at The Lawyer's annual top 200 list tells you that the top ten is being restructed by newly merged law firms challenging the Magic Circle stronghold at the top, and it's a trend that looks set to continue as more firms look for allies and alliances abroad.