Ex-KWM management duo to spearhead growth of PwC Asia legal arm

by Legal Week

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14 Aug 2014

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FORMER King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) Australia head Tony O'Malley and M&A and tax head Tim Blue are to join PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to spearhead the expansion of the accounting giant's legal services business across Asia-Pacific.

The duo, who recently set up a new advisory boutique in Sydney called LCR Advisory, are set to work alongside the big four accounting firm's existing legal head in Australia and Asia, Andrew Wheeler, to create a three-strong management team, Legal Week reports.

O'Malley will have overall responsibility for the Asia-Pacific legal division and will join the firm's global legal services board, having previously been deputy global managing partner at KWM and head of the firm in Australia. He will continue to practise as a competition and telecommunications regulatory lawyer.

Meanwhile Blue, who previously headed KWM's corporate M&A and tax practices, is to join PwC as a partner and O'Malley's number two. He will also lead PwC's corporate and commercial legal practice in the region.

The news comes months after PwC announced its opening in Singapore, after sealing a tie-up with a local outfit in the city-state known as Camford Law.

In April, Wheeler told Legal Week the firm was aiming to reach around 500 lawyers in the region and revenues of up to $200m (£119m) from Asian legal services by launching in key jurisdictions such as China and Japan, and hiring in core practice areas. In Australia it is targeting annual legal services revenue of $100m (£59.9m) plus.

PwC Australia chief executive Luke Sayers said: "Clients are no longer seeking premium legal services from only a small handful of large firms. Our legal practice has been growing steadily over the past five years and we believe the time is right to invest in this part of our business to broaden and deepen our legal services offering and target the premium corporate advisory space."

"A premium legal service is a natural adjacent and complementary offering to a number of our core competencies; particularly international and domestic tax, deals, corporate finance, regulatory and our new people offering, which specialises in human resource related matters."

Accounting firms have made a number of moves to expand their legal arms globally in recent months. Also eyeing Asia regional expansion is rival Ernst & Young (EY), which recently entered mainland China and applied for legal practice licences in Singapore and Vietnam.

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