Who will King & Wood set its sights on next?

King & Wood Mallesons denies merger talks with US firm, but not with SJ Berwin

On the back of the tie-up between Chinese firm King & Wood and Australia’s Mallesons in March 2012, the market was buzzing with talk of which firm, country or continent would be next on the Asian behemoth’s expansion agenda.

Two front-runners soon emerged in US firm Nixon Peabody and London’s SJ Berwin, but when The Lawyer approached King & Wood Mallesons with these reports it received a mischievous reply from the firm’s global managing partner Stuart Fuller.

Speaking in May 2012 Fuller was open about the firm’s need for US and UK capabilities, but when asked about Nixon Peabody and SJ Berwin, he would only reply that the firm had held talks with one, but not which one. He added that the talks were not specific.

Neither Nixon Peabody nor SJ Berwin would comment on the talks, of course, meaning the market was left none the wiser. Indeed, things had quietened down in terms of speculation about King & Wood Mallesons’ next move until the matter was raised by another publication which, perhaps inadvertently, solved the matter once and for all.

In an article in Asian Lawyer, King & Wood Mallesons international committee member Handel Lee responded to reports his firm had been talking to Nixon Peabody about a merger by saying “We absolutely have not spoken to them”. The piece contained no such denial about SJ Berwin.

There’s no word on how the talks have progressed since 2012, but at least that’s one mystery solved.