By Pattrick Smellie
July 31 (BusinessDesk) - One of New Zealand's longest-established law firms, Kensington Swan, is to become part of the world's largest legal practice, Dentons.
Established in 1878 and trading under that name for the past 141 years, it will become Dentons Kensington Swan once partners of Dentons have voted to support the creation of a locally governed partnership.
Governed by the Swiss legal concept of a Verein corporate structure common to international partnerships and alliances, the New Zealand practice will continue to be a discreet profit centre that will contract for intellectual services from Dentons' burgeoning legal innovation and research and development units. It will also gain access to a global network of potential clients.
Dentons entered the Australian and Papua New Guinea legal markets in 2016.
"Clients have explicitly identified the New Zealand market as a priority and this combination would see the firms able to meet client needs both in New Zealand and around the globe," Dentons global chief executive Elliott Portnoy said in a statement.
Dentons has invested in legal IT innovation through its NextLaw Labs research and development operation and NextLaw Ventures, a venture capital fund supporting legal innovation.
"No one's making much money at legal tech at the moment, but to the extent that they show a return, that will mainly be directed at lowering costs," Wellington-based Kensington Swan board member and partner Hayden Wilson told BusinessDesk.
"It offers us a chance to connect our New Zealand clients with lawyers anywhere in the world that they are doing business with and are people that we know and have been subject to the same level of scrutiny that we have."
Dentons was founded in March 2013 by the merger of the law firms SNR Denton, Fraser Milner Casgrain and Salans. It became the world's largest firm after its merger with Chinese law firm Dacheng in November 2015. A Wikipedia list says the firm is represented in 151 countries and has 10,000 employees. Its website lists a single Auckland-based lawyer on its website to claim New Zealand representation already.
While its expansion into Australia had in part driven Dentons' interest in New Zealand, Wilson said "the demand we have seen through Dentons has been from around the world - Asia, Europe, the US."