Global law firm K&L Gates LLP announced a merger with Australian law firm Middletons.

The combined company, which will be effective starting Jan. 1, 2013, expands K&L Gates’ global reach to more than 2,000 lawyers in 46 offices across five continents—Australia, North America, South America, Europe and Asia—as well as the Middle East. K&L’s Asia-Pacific coverage will include up to 400 lawyers, with 11 offices, including a location in Seoul, which recently opened on Nov. 14.

Middletons consists of 300 lawyers and four offices in several cities, including Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. The merged company will operate under the K&L Gates banner, and be headquartered in in New York where K&L is currently based.

Discussions between the two firms had been taking place for several months. Talks initiated as a means of expanding both firms’ global presence, especially K&L, which has yet to set up an office in Australia.

K&L chairman and global managing partner Peter Kalis and Middletons national managing partner Nick Nichola released a joint statement saying that, together, both firms consist of “the largest integrated network of law offices and law partners of any global law firm,” and that clients will be now able to tap “legal resources around the corner and around the world.”

The deal is also the first full merger between a U.S. law firm and an Australian counterpart. So far, the U.K. has remained fairly dominant in terms of growing law firms in Australia. Herbert Smith LLP of London and Australia's third-largest law firm Freehills announced a merger in June, while Deacons Australia joined with European firm Norton Rose Group in 2009.

K&L formed in 2006 out of the of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham in Pittsburgh and Preston Gates & Ellis in Seattle.

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