Big Six law firms
The Big Six law firms was a term informally used in Australia to refer to those firms which, collectively, are perceived to be the largest firms headquartered in Australia and distinguished in comparison to their other competitors.
- Allens Arthur Robinson (now Allens, in association with Linklaters LLP)
- Blake Dawson (now merged into Ashurst LLP)
- Clayton Utz
- Freehills (now merged into Herbert Smith Freehills)
- Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now merged into King & Wood Mallesons)
- Minter Ellison
In 2012, four of these firms entered into association arrangements or merged with firms headquartered outside Australia.
Development since 2012
Since 1 March 2012, Blake Dawson's former Australian practice has been trading as Ashurst Australia, ahead of a full financial merger with Ashurst LLP planned for 2014, while its practice in Asia has fully merged into the Asia practice of Ashurst LLP.
Mallesons Stephen Jaques is currently trading as King & Wood Mallesons, after a merger and reorganisation with Chinese firm King & Wood, which has resulted in a Swiss Verein-structured association amongst what was the Australian and UK practice of Mallesons Stephen Jaques, a fully merged, combined Hong Kong practice, and a fully merged, combined mainland China practice consisting mainly of the existing King & Wood practice.
Allens Arthur Robinson changed its name to "Allens" on 1 May 2012, and began to operate in association with Magic Circle firm Linklaters. The association arrangements will see the firms operate with joint ventures in some parts of Asia, Allens practices merging into Linklaters practices in other parts, and the two firms operating jointly on certain matters.
Freehills merged with London-headquartered "Silver Circle" law firm Herbert Smith, effective from 1 October 2012. The full financial merger created a single, global firm called "Herbert Smith Freehills".
It is unclear at this stage whether the new identities thus formed have inherited the "Big Six" status of their predecessor firms in Australia. Beaton Research & Consulting argues that the term Big Six is no longer relevant to the Australian legal market.
Relationship with Magic Circle and Silver Circle
The Magic Circle and Silver Circle are groups of UK-headquartered law firms which are regarded as the first- and second-ranked groups of law firms respectively among UK-headquartered law firms in terms of perceived prestige and size.
Following the mergers and association arrangements announced in 2012, Freehills and Ashurst Australia (formerly Blake Dawson) will form parts of UK-headquartered Silver Circle firms, while Allens is now in an association arrangement with a Magic Circle law firm.
Size and ranking
The majority of the six firms were among the 100 largest law firms globally. In terms of revenue these are:
|Firm||2010 rank||2011 rank||2012 rank|
|Mallesons Stephen Jaques||87||75||70|
|Allens Arthur Robinson||90||73||72|
Several of these firms have also been leading firms in the Asia-Pacific region generally. In 2007, Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz, Freehills and Mallesons Stephen Jaques were the top five firms in the Asia Pacific region in mergers and acquisitions transactions, ranking above Magic Circle firm Linklaters.
Each year the BRW also awards the Big 6 firm that delivers the best client service its Client Choice Award in the Best law firm, revenue over $200 million category. In 2012 that firm was King & Wood Mallesons: In 2013 the finalists for the award were (listed alphabetically):
In the 2011/2012 Australian financial year, the law firms with the highest revenue were as follows:
|4||King & Wood Mallesons||$424,000,000|
- Magic Circle (law): five firms with headquarters in London considered to be the leading firms in the United Kingdom
- Global Quartet (also Big Four): members of the Magic Circle other than Slaughter and May, which has, in general, not pursued a policy of expansion
- Golden Circle (used by The Economist, for example; also Silver Circle, which was coined by The Lawyer magazine in 2005): mid-market or boutique law firms in the UK with profits per partner levels similar to those of the Magic Circle but being much smaller in terms of overall turnover and numbers of lawyers
- White shoe firms (also Charmed Circle): New York City law firms considered to be the leading firms
- Seven Sisters: seven Canadian law firms considered to the leading firms
- Big Five: the five largest South African law firms
- Michael Kirby (2002-03-07). "Australian Law Award Awards Function Westin Hotel, Sydney". High Court of Australia. Retrieved 2011-08-13.
- Margaret Simons (4 August 2002), "Justice Inc.", The Sunday Age. Agenda. (Melbourne, Victoria): 1, "Today, almost all this has changed. The top 20 law firms in Australia account for 80 per cent of the nation's market for commercial legal services. At the beginning of the new century they earned more than $2.5 billion in fees, which is small beer by international standards. Now the top six, each of which has up to 1,000 lawyers working for them, are moving into the Asia-Pacific region in a quest for market share."
- Kenneth Nguyen (22 May 2007), Stags in Slater & Gordon share some class action - a 40% win (The Sydney Morning Herald), John Fairfax Holdings Limited., p. 21, "Though Slater & Gordon is a well-known law firm, its market capitalisation of $151 million would be dwarfed if any of Australia's "big six" law firms - Allens Arthur Robinson, Blake Dawson Waldron, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Minter Ellison - decided to float."
- Georgina Dent (21 August 2008), Contracts and conflicts (BRW (Abstracts)), Media Monitors Australia Pty Ltd, p. 56, "... Mallesons Stephen Jaques, Freehills, Allens Arthur Robinson, Clayton Utz and Minter Ellison. Along with Blake Dawson these firms are considered the big six in Australia.".
- Carolyn Cummins (10 July 2010), Law firms compete for CBD space (The Sydney Morning Herald), John Fairfax Holdings Limited., p. 18, ""The Australian market appears mature and advanced enough to warrant outside players to the existing big six law firms of Allens, Blakes, Clayton Utz, Freehills, Mallesons and Minters," Mr Berriman said."
- "Blake Dawson Services Pty Ltd" (entry in database) in Company360, Dun & Bradstreet (Australia) Pty Ltd., accessed 2 March 2012; "Ashurst (formerly Blake Dawson Services) is a collaboration between former Australian commercial law firm Blake Dawson, and global firm Ashurst. Effective 1 March 2012, Blake Dawson will re-brand as Ashurst; a full financial merger is planned for 2014."
- Leonie Wood, "Old names out as law firms launch onto the global market", The Sydney Morning Herald, Business section p 2, accessed 2 March 2012 via factiva.com; "Blake Dawson and Ashurst are merging operations in Asia, forming a unit boasting about 150 lawyers in Shanghai, Jakarta, Tokyo, Singapore and Port Moresby and with plans to expand it to a 200-strong workforce with a new office in Beijing. ... But this merger of the Asian operations is merely the first step in a possible global merger of the firms in 2014, a move that would require a vote of all the partners."
- Chris Merritt, "Big three not worried by new arrivals", The Australian, 24 February 2012 (All-round First edition), p 33; "THREE big national law firms have shrugged off the arrival of giant international competitors and have entrenched their position as the unchallenged home of the nation's elite lawyers. The lead of the big three over their international rivals has been identified by Chambers and Partners in the latest edition of its authoritative guide to the profession, Chambers Asia-Pacific. The guide shows that those practice groups that operate at an elite, or 'band one', level are concentrated in three firms: Freehills, Allens Arthur Robinson and Mallesons Stephen Jaques. ... From next week, Mallesons will enter a Swiss-style verein with China's King & Wood and become King & Wood Mallesons; Freehills is in the first stages of talks about a link with global giant Herbert Smith; and fourth-ranked Blake Dawson will next week adopt the name of its international alliance partner, Ashurst."
- Allens Arthur Robinson. "Allens and Linklaters form integrated alliance".
- "Linklaters, Allens Arthur Seal U.K.-Aussie Alliance". The American Lawyer.
- Suzi Ring (28 June 2012). "Herbert Smith Freehills to go live as partners vote through merger". Legal Week. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- Bloomberg (2012). Herbert Smith To Merge With Freehills, Open In New York. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
- Beaton Research & Consulting (2012). An obituary for the term "Big 6" law firms in Australia. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- "The Global 100 2010: The World's Highest Grossing Law Firms". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 6 September 2011.
- "The Global 100 2011: The World's Highest Grossing Law Firms". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 15 March 2012.
- "The Global 100 2012: The World's Highest Grossing Law Firms". The American Lawyer. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- "Freehills has firm grip on top spot in league tables". Lawyers Weekly Online. 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2008-05-15.
- "Codes and definitions", "Private sector shows resilience", "Top 500 private companies" (special issue) BRW (Sydney), 25 August 2011, p 50.
- Kate Mills (2012-03-15). "BRW/Beaton Client Choice Awards: And the winners are...". brw.com.au. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- "BRW Client Choice Awards Finalists 2013". brw.com.au. 2013-01-30. Retrieved 2013-03-07.
- ""Australia's Top Law Firms Revealed", BRW (Sydney), 1 August 2012".