Singapore fling

Will King & Wood Mallesons next move be a Singapore link-up?

At a May conference of worldwide law firm leaders held at California’s Pebble Beach, King & Wood Mallesons’ global managing partner Stuart Fuller revealed the firm’s plans for global domination.

At the time, the firm said it was focusing on the UK and US markets – and, as has been reported in this magazine (21 May), has held talks with either Nixon Peabody or SJ Berwin – but it has since emerged that it is also showing interest in Canada, Russia and South East Asia.

Around the time of the Pebble Beach conference, a small group of King & Wood Mallesons partners visited several Canadian law firms, including some of the ’seven sisters’, to promote the newly merged firm and to forge links that may lead to deeper relationships in the future.

The managing partner of a Canadian firm told The Lawyer that at a recent Canadian managing partners’ forum in San Francisco there was talk of King & Wood Mallesons being interested in North America, and Canada in particular.

Another industry source indicated that before the King & Wood Mallesons tie-up was formally announced, partners from King & Wood, the Chinese part of the deal, met with a top Canadian firm and made a formal proposal for a tie-up, although the Canadian firm rebuffed its advances.

The firm also held high-level talks about the prospect of acquiring Dewey & LeBoeuf’s Moscow team prior to its eventual collapse, although that team ultimately moved to Morgan Lewis in early May.

Back on King & Wood Mallesons’ Asia Pacific home turf, South East Asia remains a missing, yet increasingly important, piece. When the King & Wood Mallesons combination was first announced in December 2011, Mallesons’ senior management admitted there had been tie-up talks with Singaporean firms, with WongPartnership being a possible contender.

A source close to the firm noted that prior to finalising its deal with King & Wood, Mallesons was keen on plugging the practice gap in Singapore and was very confident that the Singaporean firm could be brought into the fold.

With the Russia deal coming to nothing and Canada not quite within King & Wood Mallesons’ reach, it looks like its next move is going to be in Singapore.