A lesser known fact is that large international brands, such as Norton Rose Fulbright, King & Wood Mallesons, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells, Dentons, Baker & McKenzie (as well as accounting firms like Deloitte and PwC), are not single entities.
They are swiss vereins: associations that allow individual firms to operate under the same brand without sharing liability. Swiss vereins could also be described as professional services networks but the terminology is a “debatable issue”, according to Mr McGarry.
Professional service networks are a way to grow a firm’s global footprint without the hassle and risk associated with multiple mergers, according to the founder of World Services Group and Lex Mundi. There are many types of professional services networks, including large groups such as Lex Mundi (which comprises 21,000 lawyers across more than 100 countries) and smaller networks containing only a few firms. The firms in these networks operate separately under different brands. They are not liable for mistakes made by member firms and can belong to multiple networks if they wish. “The most fundamental [benefit] is when a client comes in the door and says, 'I've got a problem in Germany or Alabama or in Sydney or in Brunei, the law firm and the lawyer can look that person straight in the eye and go, ‘no big deal.