Business law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP has announced the launch of a new “strategic alliance” with U.K. law firm Bond Dickinson, a development the firm said will solidify and expand the existing informal relationship between the two firms.
“It’s more than a referral agreement, but less than a merger,” said David B. Hamilton, managing partner of Womble Carlyle’s 17-lawyer Baltimore office.
The five-year agreement, which went into effect June 15, provides for reciprocal client referrals between the firms, as well as office visits for attorneys from both firms, cooperation between practice groups, joint marketing efforts and collaboration on business development, diversity and pro bono initiatives. A governing body made up of four partners from each firm will meet seven or eight times each year, said Hamilton, who is one of the four Womble Carlyle representatives.
The relationship between Womble Carlyle and Bond Dickinson grew out of frequent cross-referrals in the course of the firms’ corporate and transactional work, Hamilton said: Bond Dickinson referred U.K. clients with legal needs in the U.S. to Womble Carlyle, and vice versa.
Now that the relationship has been formalized, Womble Carlyle is marketing the strategic alliance as a valuable resource for multinational clients or those that conduct business overseas.
Hamilton said one of the distinct benefits of the alliance for Womble Carlyle clients will be access to professionals at Bond Dickinson Wealth, a subsidiary of the U.K. firm that provides investment and other financial advice.
“For our clients at Womble Carlyle in the wealth management business, we think that’s going to be useful,” Hamilton said. “For our U.S. clients that have property or other interests in the U.K. and vice versa, we think that is a place where it is a bit unique.”
The recent “Brexit” vote by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is another example of the practical benefit to clients, Hamilton said.
“It certainly has prompted calls to us asking about what’s going to happen in the U.K., which we’ve referred to Bond Dickinson,” he said.
The strategic alliance was formed before the Brexit vote took place, and it allowed Womble Carlyle to direct concerned clients to information gathered by Bond Dickinson attorneys about how the vote could impact a wide range of legal and economic issues, Hamilton said.
While it may be more common for U.S. firms whose clients have legal needs in the U.K. to open an office in London — or initiate a merger with a U.K. firm — Hamilton said an alliance was the logical choice for Womble Carlyle and Bond Dickinson.
“We both achieve our goals through a strategic alliance,” Hamilton said. “We think it’s a structure that will allow us to work together profitably and sensibly. It is also an easier and quicker way to work together compared to a merger, which requires much time to execute, particularly across two countries.”