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King & Wood and Mallesons have addressed perceived client confidentiality issues ahead of their 1 March merger by pledging to keep the Chinese partnership out of the firm’s network system.
As revealed in The Lawyer this week, a number of Mallesons partners were uneasy about sharing systems across the merged firm because under Chinese law lawyers in domestic firms are obligated to hand over any client information the ruling Communist Party may ask for (27 February 2012).
An internal email sent by Mallesons chief executive Stuart Fuller, who will be global managing partner of the enlarged firm, reassures partners that the documents and client information management system will be shared between the firm’s Australia and Hong Kong partnerships only. The mainland China partnership will not have any connection to the network.
Fuller states in the email: “Under the new combination there will be many opportunities for us to work across countries on cross-border deals. However, we also need to ensure we respect the confidentiality of our clients and the sensitivity of some clients about documents being accessed in foreign jurisdictions. This means that we must be more careful in considering conflicts and the security and confidentiality of client information.”
The new approach includes establishing a comprehensive intranet site to help lawyers manage the change to King & Wood Mallesons and ensure effective internal communication, and setting up a stricter procedure of sharing client documents and confidential information between the partnerships.
“You should only share client documents and client confidential information between the partnerships if you have the client’s consent,” the email states. “This applies to sharing documents via the document management system or by email.”
Individual partners will be identified by jurisdiction with, CN, HK or AU added to their names on the firm’s global address list to indicate which partnership they work in. Email addresses will also reflect jurisdiction.
According to the email, Mallesons’ London office will be part of the Australia partnership; the merged Hong Kong office will form the Hong Kong partnership; and King & Wood’s Japan and US offices will be counted as part of the PRC partnership.