The geographic distribution of ANZ lawyers, a hypothesis, and a large on-boarding

Bob Santamaria is profiled in Asia-MENA Counsel, Vol. 9, Issue 7 at 40, Santamaria being the Group General Counsel of ANZ Bank, the third largest in Australia. He estimates that ANZ now has around forty-five lawyers across some thirty jurisdictions who work alongside the remainder of the team back home. Those outposts include Hong Kong Singapore, Vietnam, China, and Taiwan.

Let me soar far above this one instance of geographic distribution and offer a hypothesis. The smaller a country is by GDP, the higher the percentage of its major-company in-house lawyers are based outside the country. My reasoning is that companies that compete globally from a small starting country have to expand into bigger markets, and to help do so they post their lawyers in those remote locations. Thus, U.S. companies may be quite large but have only ten percent of their legal team overseas; a Belgian company that reaches billions of Euros in revenue probably has well more than half its lawyers elsewhere.

Back to Santamaria. He notes that organic growth of the bank’s legal infrastructure has been bolstered by opportunistic M&A. “For example, we picked up around fifteen lawyers with the acquisition of the Asian operations of the Royal Bank of Scotland.” Not a merger, true, but a significant corporate acquisition brought with it a large infusion of lawyers.

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