Norton Rose Fulbright look to create an energy-practice ‘corridor’ across the Americas

With yesterday’s announcement of the blockbuster merger between Norton Rose and Fulbright & Jaworski, the newly formed entity has tipped its hand to reveal a fascinating Americas energy-practice strategy.

From left to right: Norton Rose CEO Peter Martyr; Fulbright & Jaworski chair-elect Ken Stewart; Norton Rose chair Norm Steinberg; Fulbright chair Steven Pfeiffer.

Top representatives of the firm — which will be renamed Norton Rose Fulbright on June 1, 2013 — spent much of the day touting the breadth and depth of the combination, which matches a Houston-based litigation and life-sciences powerhouse in Fulbright with a true international player in Norton Rose. Combined, the firm — now among the top 10 in lawyers (3,800) and annual revenue (near $2 billion) — instantly rises to the status of “global player” with a strong complement of specialties.

In Canada, though, this deal was all about energy, and it’s no coincidence that Norton Rose sought out Calgary-based Macleod Dixon, a darling of the oil patch, before moving on to Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski. As Fulbright’s outgoing chair Steven Pfeiffer mentioned offhand  in yesterday’s conference call, “Houston and Calgary are practically twin cities.”

Bill Tuer, former managing partner of Macleod Dixon and now Norton Rose’s Calgary-based senior partner, says the merger “allows us to complete the strategy of building a global energy powerhouse,” among other things, he hastens to add.

And Norm Steinberg, Norton Rose’s Canadian-based global chair, took a moment in yesterday’s conference call to put the deal into a perspective Calgarians could appreciate:

“If I could add, just wearing my Canadian hat for a minute, this is a very interesting story for the Americas because when you look at the base that we have in Canada the United States and Latin America, I’m counting basically close to 1,600 lawyers within the Americas. This is a powerful platform.”

John Coleman, managing partner of Norton Rose in Canada, also alluded to a continental American “corridor” in the firm’s press release: “This brings our clients access to the major commercial markets around the world and creates a new North/South corridor through the Americas.”

So, the question is, if Norton Rose is indeed trying to build cross-border capacity throughout the Americas, and if the firm’s global strategy in Canada and the U.S. are for the moment “complete,” as Bill Tuer suggests … where is the firm looking to expand next?

Coleman offers a glimpse into the future: “We already have our Latin American operations in Venezuela and Colombia, so it’s a great foothold. But Fulbright has an excellent Latin American practice that they operate out of the United States and I think together we’re going to be able to complete the north-south picture of the North and Latin American continents.”

And where in Latin America, specifically?

CEO Peter Martyr, in a closing comment, did not mince words: “Obviously, South America or Latin America is very important to us. We’re in Caracas and Bogota already. Brazil will be somewhere that we need to establish. … Brazil and Mexico will be important places where there is already a lot of contact.”

Already a lot of contact? Get ready for round three, everyone.

-David Dias

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