24 Jun 2021

King & Wood Mallesons' Australia chief executive to step down early

Successor to be chosen next year at end of 'sensible five-year innings' for Berkeley Cox

Image of Sydney Harbour at night


King & Wood Mallesons’ (KWM’s) Australia chief executive partner, Berkeley Cox, is to step down from the role a year early.

Cox was set to lead the firm for a second three-year term when he was re-elected as chief executive partner last May. He will be stepping away from the seat to play another role in the firm in 2022, the firm said in a statement. 

The Hong Kong-headquartered firm’s Australian arm will begin the formal search for Cox’s successor early next year, with Cox set to stay on as chief executive partner until the transition goes into effect. 

He told Australian Financial Review: “There’s no doubt these roles are demanding and they’re not getting any easier. I think a term of five years is a pretty sensible innings."

Cox became a partner at legacy firm Mallesons Stephen Jacques in 2001, eleven years before its merger with Chinese firm King & Wood PRC Lawyers went live. Prior to his appointment as chief executive partner in 2017, he spent five years as managing partner of the firm’s banking and finance and projects and real estate teams in Brisbane. 

Michael Clough, chairman of KWM in Australia, said he had “driven positive change” through his “legacy of deep care for our people’s wellbeing, passion for our community work and desire to evolve the firm’s service delivery through technology and new ways of working”.

According to Australian Financial Review, Melbourne-based managing partner Ranae Lattey and Sydney-based corporate M&A head Evie Bruce are among the top contenders to replace Cox, holding out the prospect of KWM joining MinterEllison and Norton Rose Fulbright as among the few top firms with women leaders in Australia. 

Earlier this month, KWM achieved a 50/50 gender split in its latest round of Australian partner promotions, with a total of 10 lawyers getting the nod across its offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. 

Three lawyers were made up in the firm’s projects and real estate practice, while M&A and dispute resolution gained two partners apiece. The final spots went to Ruth Rosedale (employment), Catherine Danne (banking and finance) and Greg Protektor (tax). 

Last autumn, KWM’s efforts to adapt to the Covid-19 environment led it to overtake Baker McKenzie in Acritas’s 2020 Asia Pacific Law Firm Brand Index as the region’s number one law firm brand based on attributes such as service quality, top-level work consideration and overall usage.