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K&L Gates to acquire Australian law firm, continue overseas expansion

| Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 10:06 a.m.

K&L Gates LLP said Tuesday it is acquiring a 300-attorney law firm in Australia, the latest deal in a trend toward law firm globalization.

The law firm, one of the largest in Pittsburgh, will expand its global reach to five continents by acquiring Middletons. The transaction, whose financial terms were not disclosed, is effective Jan. 1.

The deal marks K&L Gates' foray in Australia, where it will locate in four offices: Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Brisbane. The firm, founded in Pittsburgh, has about 400 attorneys in Asia, about 300 attorneys in Europe and 30 attorneys in the Middle East or Brazil, along with about 1,500 lawyers in the United States.

“Our firm strategy is to align our business with the businesses of clients in an era of intense consolidation and globilization,” said K&L Gates Global Managing Partner Peter Kalis in an e-mail.

“Many of our clients do business globally, and they rightfully expect us to be there for them when and where they need us,” Kalis said.

Middletons will be renamed “K&L Gates.” The combination will bring K&L Gates' stable of attorneys to about 2,400 in 46 offices on five continents, including 190 lawyers in Pittsburgh.

The deal is also K&L Gates' second foreign acquisition this year. The firm acquired Marini Salsi Picciau Studio Legale, a boutique law firm in Milan, Italy, last February.

Expansion abroad by American law firms has been going on for about a decade, said Aric Press, editor in chief at ALM Media Properties LLC, which publishes American Lawyer newspaper in New York.

“The principal reason for it is firms have or want clients who have needs in multiple jurisdictions, and they want to be able to serve them at that end of the market,” Press said.

“Both K&L Gates and Reed Smith have expanded aggressively and successfully (abroad) in the last 10 to 15 years,” he said.

Reed Smith, based in Pittsburgh, in early October opened an office in Singapore, which it staffed with four attorneys. With offices already in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, Reed Smith says it has one of the largest legal footprints in Asia.

The firm has more than 1,700 attorneys in 23 offices worldwide, including 235 attorneys in Pittsburgh. Reed Smith opened its office in Shanghai, China's largest city, in July 2011. It also has offices in the Middle East and Europe.

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at tolson@tribweb.com.

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