King & Wood Mallesons and the United Kingdom’s SJ Berwin have formally announced a merger, extending the Sino-Australian firm’s reach to eight new markets in Europe and the Middle East.
SJ Berwin will fold into King & Wood Mallesons and give up its name on November 1, creating a 2,700-lawyer operation with more than $1 billion in revenues a year.
The newly combined firm—which will include 30 offices in China, Western Europe, Australia, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Japan—will be among the world’s top five law firms by lawyer head count, according to The American Lawyer’s Global 100 survey.
King & Wood Mallesons’s global ambitions are no secret, with the firm saying last year when it merged with Australia’s Mallesons that it was also looking to enter the U.S. and U.K. markets.
During a press conference on Wednesday in Hong Kong, global managing partner Stuart Fuller said the present tie-up with SJ Berwin would put the firm in position to capture a continued flow of deals between China and Europe.
“I only see opportunities out of this, not risks,” he said, adding that “having a deeper capability around English law, which is a fundamental law of commercial transactions, and the European platform gives us such a stronger proposition as a global firm to do more work for [our] clients.”
At the time of the announcement, SJ Berwin had just over 500 lawyers, including 165 partners. Its 12 international offices, nine of which are in Europe, brought in $280.8 million in revenues in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, up 2.5 percent year over year.
Management at the two firms will remain largely unchanged, with SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day continuing in that role. However, SJ Berwin senior partner Stephen Kon will serve as co–deputy chairman of King & Wood Mallesons's international management committee with Australia chairman Stephen Minns.
The merger is being structured as a Swiss verein, meaning that the firms will remain distinct legal and financial entities. King & Wood’s tie-up last year with Mallesons was handled the same way, with three partnerships in China, Hong Kong, and Australia.
An integration plan is currently being drawn up, Fuller said, part of which will include the firm’s London-based lawyers moving to SJ Berwin’s offices while SJ Berwin lawyers in Hong Kong and Shanghai would move to King & Wood Mallesons’s offices in those cities.
SJ Berwin held merger talks with both Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Proskauer Rose in 2010 in hopes of tying up with a U.S. firm, but those discussions proved unsuccessful.