SJ Berwin and King & Wood Mallesons seal tie-up

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

UK-headquartered SJ Berwin is combining forces with King & Wood Mallesons to create one global law firm based in Asia.

The merger, expected to be finalized by November 1, 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 $1 billion.

SJ Berwin will 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. 

Each firm was keen to expand their reach in the others' respective geography, noted Blake during a telephone interview. He added 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. 

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

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.”