Mallesons Stephen Jaques and King & Wood are are likely to target further deals if their proposed merger wins the backing of their respective partnerships.
Partners at Australian firm Mallesons voted on the merger yesterday, with London partners being told of the result this morning. It is not clear when partners at Chinese giant King & Wood will vote.
Mallesons London managing partner Robert Hanley said his view was that a tie-up would be “very positive”.
“There’s an almost worn-out expression about game changers at the moment but I think this move could really make people sit up and take notice. If it does go ahead, it would be the first combination of its kind.
“For us it’s part of a process of globalisation that started some time ago. If [the merger] does happen it would be a first step and a very important one, but it would probably be followed by more.”
It is believed that the deal is set to go live in the first quarter of 2012 if partners give the merger their approval. It is understood that an enlarged firm would be branded King & Wood Mallesons.
The deal would take the form of a Swiss verein, with the pair not combining financially, as this is not permitted under Chinese regulations (21 July 2011).
King & Wood managing partner Wang Ling said: “Cross-border transactions and matters, both inbound and outbound, have become a very large part of our firm’s business. It’s critical for us to build up our international network, know-how and capability if we want to enter the next phase of development. So we’ve made constant attempts and endeavors over the past a few years.”
Previous initiatives taken by the firm include joining international alliance organizations PRAC and the World Law Group, merger with Hong Kong firm Arculli Fong & Ng, opening offices in New York and Silicon Valley and a strategic alliance with Australian firm G + T that was terminated when King & Wood turned to Mallesons for tie-up talks.
“The gap between top-tier international firms and us is still very wide. We have much to learn from our international counterparts. What we’re doing now is to seek a way that can really help us make the leap,” Wang added.