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It’s big, it’s here – King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin launches and unveils global management team

It’s big, spanning continents, oceans, hugely disparate cultures and a complex governance and profit-sharing model and it’s going live today (1 November) – welcome to King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin.

The firm has now confirmed who will be taking on the task of managing the newly-merged giant after announcing the line-up of global practice heads and its new management committee. (For lawyers who spent their summer in a cave, the firm is the combination of top 25 UK practice SJ Berwin and Asia-Pacific giant King & Wood Mallesons).

Three practice leaders have been chosen from each legacy firm, which is a total of nine distinct practices. From SJ Berwin, former senior partner Jonathan Blake, one of the architects of the merger, is leading funds and private equity. Simon Holmes will head up the anti-trust and regulatory group and Bryan Pickup will lead the combined firm’s real estate practice.

King & Wood’s Rupert Li, international managing partner and former Clifford Chance partner, will lead the firm’s corporate practice, projects – including energy and resources – will be headed by Handel Lee and Nongfan Zhu will lead intellectual property. These partners remain based Beijing.

From legacy Mallesons, Yuen-Yee Cho will head banking and finance, Justin Cherrington will take charge of tax and Beau Deleuil will manage the dispute resolution practice. All are based in Sydney.

The merged firm has also appointed an international management committee (IMC), which includes representatives from the UK, China and Australia. Legacy SJ Berwin managing partner Rob Day and senior partner Stephen Kon, who also chairs the firm’s international partnership board, have been appointed from the UK. M&A partner Maxence Bloch, a member of the global partnership board and Stefan Kruger, who heads SJ Berwin’s German IP practice, are also on the committee.

From legacy Mallesons, members of the IMC include global managing partner Stuart Fuller, country managing partner Sue Kench, Australia chair Stephen Minns and corporate partner David Friedlander.

King & Wood’s representatives in the IMC include Wang Junfeng, founding partner of King & Wood and chair of the IMC, Wang Ling, managing partner of King & Wood and head of the finance practice, Zhang Yi, managing partner of King & Wood’s Shanghai office, and M&A partner Wang Rongkang.

The firm also has a core executive committee, which is led by global managing partner Stuart Fuller and includes Kench, Ling, Day and Li.

Fuller told Legal Business that pre-launch integration had gone ‘incredibly smoothly’, adding: ‘I learned a lot of lessons from the King & Wood Mallesons merger.’

He added: ‘We had a meeting of 54 practice group leaders in September who discussed their main clients, product areas, business plans and secondment plans. Clients haven’t waited until November, the amount of enquiries and referrals has been very strong across the markets.’

The Swiss verein-structured law firm, which agreed the tie-up in July, will have combined revenues of over $1bn and is made up of four partnerships in Australia, China, Hong Kong and the UK. After a short transition period operating under the name of King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin in Europe, the firm will be known simply as King & Wood Mallesons or KWM.

The deal remains singular in the global legal market and continues to sharply divide peers, with some hailing its compelling strategic position in the touted Asia Pacific region while detractors focus on the lack of top tier coverage in the US and Europe and the operational challenge of integrating Western and Chinese law firms.

See ‘SJ Berwin’s high stakes tie-up with KWM dares to bring a new equation to global law‘ for analysis of the union.