Exclusive: KWM COO joins managing partner in walkout

King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM) chief operating officer (COO) for Europe and Middle East, Rachel Reid, has exited the firm to join Taylor Wessing.

The news comes just days after the shock resignation of managing partner William Boss, who will step down a year early in May. It is understood Reid officially resigned in late October.

Reid has been replaced on an interim basis by KWM Australia COO Tim Finlayson. She will take up her new role as COO and board member at Taylor Wessing in February.

Reid was promoted to COO in 2014 having also served as the firm’s diversity and inclusion manager. She was brought in from Mayer Brown’s London office in 2013 where she was strategy director.

Remarking on the double exit of Boss and Reid, one source close to the firm said the “two most proactive people at KWM have gone”.

A spokesperson for KWM said Boss will return to a full-time fee-earner role in the firm’s real estate practice.

No names have yet surfaced to takeover from Boss as head of KWM in the UK, Europe and Middle East, with many speculating his successor could be appointed, rather than KWM holding a full election.

Boss himself was appointed to the position in January 2015 after no satisfactory candidates put themselves forward for the position, The Lawyer understands.

Boss is a longstanding legacy SJ Berwin partner and became co-head of the London real estate group in 2013 as the UK firm aligned its management structure with that of its Chinese merger partner. He took over as managing partner from then SJ Berwin boss Rob Day following the merger.

The combined firm has undergone a long process of integration since the merger with SJ Berwin in the UK in October 2013. The Swiss Verein network has more than 2,700 lawyers in 30 locations.

Reid was named Law Firm Management Individual of the Year at The Lawyer Management Awards in 2014 for her “instrumental role” in the combination of King & Wood Mallesons and SJ Berwin.

The firm’s recent decision to trim almost 10 per cent of its equity partnership in London, less than two years into its combination, combined with a raft of ‘big hitter’ exits from its traditionally strong disputes and private equity practices has led many to question the success of the firm’s Sino-Anglo integration so far.

KWM management embarked on a “partnership review” late last year, with around 15 partners understood to be leaving the firm. On top of that, the firm lost a string of partners from its London office last year, including Gregg Beechey for Fried FrankSimon Fulbrook to Goodwin Procter, Richard Lever to Goodwin Procter, and Alex Leitch to Covington & Burling.

It also picked up 15 lateral hires, including Laura Brunnen from Fried Frank,three projects partners from Linklaters, and nine real estate and commerce partners and associates from Eversheds.