The incoming head of Mallesons Stephen Jaques has told Lawyers Weekly that the future of the firm's lawyers in China is still to be determined.
Stuart Fuller, who will become the firm's chief executive partner in 2012 after the retirement of Robert Milliner, said the long-term role of staff at the firm's offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong was still being analysed in the wake of the expected merger with King & Wood.
"It's early in the piece ... a role and a position for everybody will be one of the critical pieces that the firm will want to put in place in any combination," said Fuller.
He would not comment on the prospect of job losses if the merger is ratified by King & Wood's partners.
Fuller was speaking to Lawyers Weekly in the wake of Beijing chief representative John Shi and M&A partner Nic Groffman leaving the firm to join DLA Piper less than one week after the firm's partnership voted to merge with King & Wood.
It is believed that partners from the almost 1000 lawyer-strong King & Wood voted on the merger last week, but the results are yet to be disclosed.
Fuller said that it was not a concern of his that more Mallesons partners would leave the firm for reasons to do with the expected merger.
"We never like to lose anybody but it's a decision limited around those two partners largely for personal reasons," said Fuller.
"You get into some instances where personal preferences diverge from what the firm wants to do itself. If you look at any firm you lose partners for various reasons, we lose partners every year for personal reasons, performance reasons and then we lose partners like Ashley Black and Julie Ward who get picked off by the Supreme Court bench."
Currently Mallesons employs four partners and 13 lawyers in Beijing, one partner and nine lawyers in Shanghai, and 13 partners and 76 lawyers in Hong Kong.
In an official statement, DLA Piper said that Shi and Groffman would start "in the near future" but the firm declined a request to interview the new recruits, and could not confirm whether Shi and Groffman would be starting at the firm this year or in 2012.
Phone calls by Lawyers Weekly to the respective Mallesons Beijing office numbers of both partners went through to their voicemail.
It is still uncertain whether Shi or Groffman remain employed by Mallesons, as at the time of publication, their respective profiles and details were still available on the Mallesons website.
Liu Wei, chairman of China Group and DLA Beijing office managing partner, said both former Mallesons partners have a "significant" track record of achievement in China.
"[They] enjoy strong relationships with Chinese [state-owned enterprises] as well as multi-national corporations founded on their technical proficiency, business acumen and client service," said Wei.