Antipodean firms look for a way out of isolation

Author: | Published: 1 Jan 2001

It once seemed that the remote Antipodean law firms might find a new lease of life by expanding into Asia. Today, it seems more likely that they will become talent pools for the major global firms with ambitious Asian expansion plans.

Fibre optic cables buried under oceans and satellites circling the globe have made the world seem smaller, but the journey from New York to Sydney can still cost you a couple of days. Local firms, well aware of their isolation, are starting to accept that they must escape their home markets to survive, but many are hamstrung by conservatism, preferring instead to wait for a piper to follow.

In the meantime, the leading US and UK legal franchises are spinning intricate webs around the world, and their appetite for staff is voracious. Freshfields added about 1,000 lawyers in 2000, and became Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in the process. Baker & McKenzie has 60 offices...