Asia's King & Wood law firm, London's Berwin to merge

Wed Jul 31, 2013 5:33pm BST

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(Reuters) - One of Asia's largest law firms is merging with a smaller corporate and commercial firm in London to create an organisation that will place it among the world's top 25 by revenue.

King & Wood Mallesons and SJ Berwin agreed to merge, effective November 1, and will have $1.3 billion (855.9 million pounds) in revenue and more than 2,700 lawyers, including 550 partners, scattered across China, Europe, Australia and the Middle East. The new firm will be known as King & Wood Mallesons after a transitional period.

The combined firm does not add to a U.S. presence.

The merger comes nearly a year and a half after King & Wood Mallesons was created with the combination of Australia's Mallesons' Stephen Jaques and King & Wood, China's third-largest law firm.

The acquisition of SJ Berwin extends King & Wood's reach into Europe and the Middle East. Berwin has more than 500 lawyers specializing in corporate and commercial law.

The deal follows a spate of other recent cross-border law firm mergers.

In the wake of a severe recession that pushed more clients to cut back on legal fees and dried up legal work, firms tried to keep market share through mergers and acquisitions and by poaching partners from other law firms.

In June, U.S.-based Fulbright & Jaworski merged with London's Norton Rose, creating Norton Rose Fulbright, with 3,800 lawyers around the globe. In April, the U.S. firm SNR Dentons, Canada's Fraser Milner Casgrain and Paris-based Salans completed an unusual three-way merger to form a 2,500-attorney firm.

In July, consultancy Altman Weil reported U.S. law firm merger activity in the first half of 2013 was the highest since 2008.

(Reporting By Casey Sullivan; Editing by Ted Botha and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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