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Research. Reveal. Rescue

What Roscoe Pound teaches us about law firm mergers

February 29th, 2012 |

History is a great teacher – especially when creatively interpreted. Roscoe Pound was one of the many luminary deans of the Harvard Law School. He served from 1916 to 1936, and without ever having studied law! He was a PhD botanist from Nebraska.

In 1922 Roscoe Pound and others undertook a detailed quantitative study of crime reporting in Cleveland newspapers for a month in 1919. Column inch counts were used to show in the first half of the month the total amount of space given to reporting crime was 925 inches, whereas in the second half it was 6,642 inches. This was in spite the fact that the number of crimes reported had only increased from 345 to 363. They concluded that although the City's much publicised "crime wave" was largely fictitious and manufactured by the press.

As to the relevance of Pound's pioneering research to law firm mergers? It seems to me the more the media carry stories and spread rumours, the more self-fulfilling these become. Witness today's AmLaw Daily report on yet another Linklaters in Australia story: http://amlawdaily.typepad.com/amlawdaily/2012/02/links-aar.html.

Not that I am offering an opinion on the veracity of today's Linklaters-AAR story; I simply do not know. "Links" has been the subject of rumours in Australia since the late 1990s.

So, is there any new angle in this particular story? 'Yes' is the answer because of the relatively small number of Australian law firms available and willing to merge with a UK or US firm. Our posts in recent weeks, http://www.beatonglobal.com/blog/2012/02/headline-a-risky-first-for-herbert-smith/, http://www.beatonglobal.com/blog/2012/02/odds-are-the-american-law-firms-will-win-in-australia/ and http://www.beatonglobal.com/blog/2012/01/why-american-law-firms-will-accelerate-asian-strategies/ point to race that is taking place.

Roscoe Pound's findings are going to prove self-fulfilling for Australian law firm globalisation, but not because of media reporting. The reasons lie in Australia's strategic place in the Asian century.

By George Beatonis a director of Beaton Capital and Beaton Research + Consulting. You can find George on Google+ at +George Beaton.

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