King & Wood Mallesons China and Eversheds Sutherland said jointly on Thursday that they have entered a formal agreement to refer work to one another exclusively in key markets, with Eversheds gaining access to mainland China and KWM China ceasing operations in Europe and East Asia.
Under the terms of the alliance, Eversheds Sutherland will be required to refer clients that need legal advice in China to KWM’s China branch.
KWM China will, in turn, refer all clients requiring legal advice in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South America to Eversheds Sutherland.
As a result of the arrangements, KWM China will wind down its offices in the UK, Europe and the Middle East by October 31, 2024, with its lawyers and staff expected to be “invited to join” Eversheds Sutherland’s offices in those regions, subject to practice needs and other considerations.
According to KWM’s website, the decision would impact the firm’s current staff in offices in the UK (11 lawyers in London), Germany (18 lawyers in Frankfurt), Spain (19 lawyers in Madrid), Italy (2 lawyers in Milan), Belgium (1 lawyer in Brussels), and the UAE (3 lawyers in Dubai).
The alliance will not affect the operations of Eversheds Sutherland’s office in the U.S. and China.
Eversheds Sutherland’s clients have “increasingly complex needs for PRC legal advice in China, and this new arrangement creates the platform to deliver a solution of the very highest calibre as well as adding strength to our European and Middle East businesses,” Eversheds’ Chief Executive Lee Ranson said in a statement.
“Demand for international legal services has increased and diversified at pace, and Eversheds Sutherland (International) is an ideal fit for our clients with its extensive worldwide network,” KWM’s global chair Wang Junfeng said. Junfeng is also a founding partner of KWM China.
KWM previously established a European presence in 2013 through a merger with London-founded SJ Berwin. But the arrangement collapsed in 2017 following high-profile partner exits and the European entity’s failure to secure a bailout from KWM’s Asia arm.
Eversheds Sutherland now operates in over 70 offices in more than 30 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the United States, with more than 3,000 lawyers.