K&L, Australian firm to merge

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About a year ago, officials of K&L Gates, Pittsburgh's largest law firm, were introduced to representatives of Middletons, a large Australian firm that was actively seeking international growth.

The timing was ideal, said K&L chairman Peter Kalis, because his firm -- which already had strong global penetration with offices in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America -- had been eyeing the Australian market to cement its presence in the critical Asia-Pacific region.

Monday night, K&L and Middletons announced they will merge Jan. 1, in a deal that brings Middletons' 300 attorneys and four offices under the K&L brand. The combination brings K&L's attorney head count to more than 2,000 in 46 offices worldwide.

Partners in both firms unanimously agreed to the merger.

Asked to comment on the deal, Mr. Kalis said Australia has become "more integral to the Asian economic experience and indeed views itself as the southernmost anchor of the region."

"There is enormous inbound investment from Asia into Australia, especially in the resources and energy sector, and the economic ties between Australia and other nations in the region are strong and growing."

Middletons' existing offices are in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane.

Currently K&L has about 100 lawyers in its Asia-Pacific offices in Beijing; Hong Kong; Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai; Singapore; Taipei, Taiwan; and Tokyo.

"For a U.S.-based global law firm, it's imperative that we staff our client matters in the region with superb, English-speaking, common-law-trained [lawyers], and Australia has them in great supply," Mr. Kalis said.

K&L's revenues last year were $1.06 billion, placing it 17th on American Lawyer's ranking of the top 100 firms by gross revenues. It was ranked eighth by the National Law Journal last year based on the number of attorneys.

Now that it is poised to enter a fifth continent, the firm will "be opportunistic as new strategic growth opportunities present themselves," Mr. Kalis said. Among the spots mentioned: South Africa, Canada and U.S. cities where it doesn't have offices.

However, in the short term, he said, "Our focus will be on integration and growing critical mass in existing locations."

businessnews

Joyce Gannon: jgannon@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1580.


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