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‘We’re actively looking at our growth’: PwC hires King & Wood managing partner duo to spearhead Asia legal arm

PwC Australia has hired former King & Wood Mallesons managing partners, Tony O’Malley and Tim Blue, to spearhead the expansion of the accounting giant’s corporate legal services business across the Asia Pacific.

The big four firm plans to build a ‘premium multi-competency legal practice globally’ and in Australia is targeting annual legal services revenue of US$100m plus.

The competition and telecoms lawyer Tony O’Malley, having served as managing partner for King & Wood Mallesons Australia and as deputy global managing partner of the firm until early last year [2013], will lead PwC’s legal practice in Australia and across the Asia Pacific. Blue meanwhile, who acted as managing partner for King & Wood Mallesons’ corporate M&A and tax practices, will join as a partner. He will serve as deputy to O’Malley and head the corporate and commercial legal practice.

On his appointment, O’Malley said: ‘PwC’s gloal network has size and scale second to none. We will leverage this scale to build a legal services offering that is tailored to the needs of the firm’s clients in a way which is not encumbered by the legacy issues that some of the established law firms are struggling with.’

With PwC’s global legal business achieving double digit revenue growth since 2007, the hires signal a marked period of expansion for the accountancy giant, which in July confirmed it had entered the Singaporean market via a tie-up with local firm Camford Law.

Partner Andrew Wheeler tells Legal Business the firm is ‘actively looking at our growth’ including in Japan and China, he says: ‘We’ve made public statements about wanting to break into the top 20 law firms globally and get over the billion and a half dollar mark. At the moment we’re earning about half a billion dollars in global legal services revenue which is a small part of PwC. We have to execute on our plans by opening in new jurisdictions we’re not in. We’ll also have to invest in our current jurisdictions which is what we’re doing in Australia.’

He adds: ‘We want to go to market together with other parts of the firm such as the tax, audit, and the consulting teams to provide a bundled service. Our proposition to clients is that we’re able to provide a seamless integrated service in places where it makes sense for them. If you look at the trade flows and where our global clients operate, places like Japan and China are really important to be in. There is a desire on our part to provide legal services there.’