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The 2012 merger between Chinese firm King & Wood and Australia’s Mallesons Stephens Jacques creating King & Wood Mallesons was a bold move that won the new outfit the International Firm of the Year title at the 2012 Lawyer Awards.
The firm is the first in the world to be able to practise Australian, Chinese, English and Hong Kong law and is the biggest firm headquartered outside the US or the UK, but the importance of the merger goes beyond mere size, touching as it does on the future economic driving force of the global economy as the merged firm positions itself as an Asian powerhouse for the Asian century.
While King & Wood Mallesons might not have had much impact yet in the West, its progress is being watched closely worldwide. Management has already set out a stall for Anglo-Saxon expansion, with at least alliances and, in all likelihood, further mergers in the UK and the US a key target for the future.
There will undoubtedly be challenges ahead for the firm. Integrating two very different cultures is crucial to King & Wood Mallesons’ future success, but the firm has worked hard to develop a joint management structure designed to get past the regulatory issues preventing full financial integration.
King & Wood Mallesons has made a splash this year, but expect the resulting waves to last for many years to come.