SJ Berwin kicks off hunt for US best friends

SJ Berwin kicks off hunt for US best friends” />
SJ Berwin is to enter into formal best friend referral relationships in the US, China and India following a radical review of the silver circle firm’s international strategy.

The firm has turned its back on any thoughts of a transatlantic tie-up, but will break with its historically staunch UK and Continental European focus and potentially open its first international office in Hong Kong.

Senior partner Jonathan Blake said: “The US affects everything and firms can’t ignore that. We have a US strategy of developing a few close connections and not merging and we’re moving forward with that.”

An exploratory trip will be made in the first quarter of 2007 to discuss formal alliances with several US firms as the firm’s initiative develops over the next six to 12 months.

A group, including Blake and international practice partner Stephen Kon, will also visit China in March to research referral relationships or opening an office in the region. Kon said it was unlikely that the firm would open in mainland China, but a Hong Kong office was under consideration. It would be the firm’s first office outside Europe.

A separate team will visit India this week to formalise referral and recruitment relationships with local firms and universities following a preliminary trip to the country in September, as first reported by The Lawyer (18 September).

The international growth strategy is part of a string of initiatives being finalised and rolled out across the firm following the strategy review and subsequent research of 10 working groups.

The preliminary findings of the groups were delivered to the strategy committee last month (October), prompting the overseas trips. A follow-up meeting will be held in Munich this week.

Other initiatives under discussion include launching in Poland and Sweden and introducing a flexible working hour policy.