King & Wood Mallesons creates US strategy committee

King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has set up a US strategy committee to look at potential opportunities in one of the firm’s key markets.

The group, which is understood to include five to six partners, is led by KWM Australia M&A partner David Friedlander and also features KWM SJ Berwin corporate partner Steven Davis. The KWM Chinese partnership is represented by corporate partner Rupert Li.

The committee has been appointed by the firm’s central management team, which is led by global managing partner Stuart Fuller. It is not clear whether any representatives from the Hong Kong partnership are also included.

Extending KWM’s US capability has long been touted as a key priority for the the firm in the wake of last November’s merger with legacy SJ Berwin. Many partners view a merger with a US firm as the preferred method of expansion.

However insiders at the firm have said the committee is confronted with the challenge of negotiating any potential merger deals amid political difficulties between the US and China in particular.

A KWM SJ Berwin partner said: “The difficulty is figuring out how to attract a US partner when there are so many political [elements] at play.”

A spokesperson for the firm said: “The US is an important market for our clients. While we may look to use US law capabilities in specialised areas to service our global clientele, we do not aim to compete for US work in the US domestic market against US law firms.”

KWM currently has two representative offices in the US, one in New York and one in Silicon Valley. Both were set up by the Chinese arm of the firm.

Legacy SJ Berwin previously held high-profile discussions with US firm Proskauer Rose, which were called off in 2010.

Davis was replaced in the role of head of corporate at legacy SJ Berwin in December by joint practice leaders Michael Goldberg and Richard Lever. Davis had held the role since 2006.


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