SJ Berwin combines with King & Wood Mallesons

The law firm consistently voted the leader in European fund formation by PEI readers is combining forces with Asian law firm King & Wood Mallesons.

London-headquartered SJ Berwin is expanding its reach by way of the first-ever tie-up between a European and Asian firm.

It has agreed to “combine” with King & Wood Mallesons on November 1. The combination will create one of the top 25 law firms in the world by revenue, with 553 partners, 2,233 lawyers, 30 offices and total turnover of circa $1bn.

SJ Berwin to eventually change its name to King & Wood Mallesons. But for a transitional period the firm will trade under the brand King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin in the UK, continental Europe and the Middle East.

It is a combination of equals between China, Australia and Europe and each firm has equal representation and influence.

Jonathan Blake

Each firm was keen to expand their reach in the others' respective geography, according to Jonathan Blake, head of SJ Berwin’s international funds group. He noted during a telephone interview that a lot of SJ Berwin’s funds and private equity work was in Asia and the combination would help the firm plug more fully into the region.

“First and foremost it is about making sure we are better able to help our European clients raise funds and do deals when there is an Asian or other international investor, acquirer or seller involved,” added Simon Witney, partner in SJ Berwin’s funds group. “Just about every fund that we work on, and an increasing number of the deals that we do, involves Asia in one way or another.”

The combination was kick started by Blake, and his relationship with leading King & Wood funds partner in China, Yi Zhang. 

The two firm’s funds teams will be integrated and will work as a single team. “It is a combination of equals between China, Australia and Europe and each firm has equal representation and influence,” added Blake.

Just about every fund that we work on, and an increasing number of the deals that we do, involves Asia in one way or another.

Simon Witney

This is not the only combination of law firms recently but it is the first between a European and Asian law firm. More common are combinations involving European and US firms, such as the combination between UK-based firm Norton Rose and Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski last year.

Blake said that Asia was a more exciting opportunity for a combination than the US. “The ability to do business in Asia is critical and provides added value. As a European, it is easier to do businesses in the US, and there are plenty of good lawyers who speak English.”