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Asia coup for Bakers as partnership chooses Hong Kong’s Cheng as new chair

The partnership of global giant Baker McKenzie has voted in Milton Cheng to become the firm’s next chair.

A Bakers lifer, Cheng (pictured) currently serves as the firm’s Hong Kong managing partner, as well as chief executive for the Asia-Pacific region. Cheng will officially take over the role on 17 October, replacing acting global chair Jaime Trujillo, and is set to serve a four-year term. His appointment marks the first time a partner from the Asia practice has taken the top role at the firm.

Cheng said: ‘I am truly honoured by the trust my fellow partners have placed in me. I look forward to working with all of them and my colleagues across the world to build on the great work of my predecessors to make Baker McKenzie the global law firm of choice.’

Cheng first joined the firm as a trainee in Singapore before becoming partner in 1999, later assuming the role of managing partner of the Hong Kong, China, Vietnam and Korea offices in 2014. His election can be seen as significant victory for the firm’s Asia partnership, having resisted challenges from North America head Colin Murray and EMEA chief executive Fiona Carlin.

Bakers’ seven-strong appointments committee drew up the shortlist of three earlier this month after soundings with partners over the summer, with the process being undertaken on a quick timetable following the unexpected death of Paul Rawlinson in April.

Trujillo added: ‘We had a group of outstanding candidates for our next chair and the partners had a difficult decision to make. In choosing Milton, we have someone who can take this great firm to the next level.’

Cheng will hope his first year at the helm of Bakers ends with a marked improvement on the most recent financial results at the firm, with market volatility meaning revenue grew 4.4% in constant currency terms but only 1.2% in dollar terms.