Baker McKenzie’s Chicago office has a new leader, mergers and acquisitions partner David Malliband.
Taking over as managing partner, Malliband succeeds Regine Corrado, an advocate for the advancement of women in the legal profession and parental leave policies, who is retiring after 30 years with the firm.
She had led the Chicago office since 2017. It’s the global legal giant’s largest North American office with 230 attorneys, and its second largest outpost globally, behind only London.
“He brings the perspective of the wide world to the Chicago office,” said Corrado of her replacement. “He’s very intuitive, connects extremely well with all kinds of people, and brings innovation to everything he does.”
Malliband began his career at Baker McKenzie in 1996 in its Sydney office. A native Australian, he moved to Chicago as a part of the firm’s international associate transfer program, where he met his wife and decided to stay in the city. He then moved to the firm’s London office, where he worked on M&A transactions for multinational companies before returning to Chicago in 2001.
“Chicago is very much home,” said Malliband, whose practice focuses on M&A and joint ventures with an emphasis on cross-border transactions.
In his new role as head of the Chicago office, Malliband will step down from his position as chair of the firm’s corporate and securities practice group there though he will continue to serve as the North American representative to the firm’s global transaction innovation group.
Malliband accepted the role prior to the coronavirus outbreak and the world has changed remarkably since then, he said.
“My focus will be on both our clients and our people, but with an understanding that the dynamics have clearly changed as a result of the virus and recent events,” Malliband said. Clients were already doing more with less, but now are dealing with the extra work load that comes from the operational impact of the virus, he said.
In the weeks following the death of George Floyd, the firm has also had to confront issues of diversity, both internally and externally.
“There’s a lot of frustration, anger and anxiety and I think we need to acknowledge that and be open to talking about that,” Malliband said. “These are difficult, uncomfortable conversations to have, but I think we need to make the space to have them.”
While work from home operations have gone generally well, Malliband said he is concerned about the toll it is taking on working parents and the overall mental health of the firm’s attorneys and staff.
Baker McKenzie closed its offices in the U.S. in March, and, according to Malliband, won’t rush to reopen.
“Our utmost priority is the health and welfare of our people and I think it’s fair to say we’ll take a slow, considered approach to reopening,” he said.
As he begins his new role, Malliband said that he hopes to bring a renewed focus to the firm’s Midwest-based clients. The firm started in Chicago and at a very early stage acknowledged that there were Chicago-based companies that wanted to go global and it followed them, he said.
“I think that very much defines us as a firm,” Malliband said, noting that many of those clients are still working with Baker McKenzie.
“I just think we need to re-energize and refocus on those relationships because now more than ever they’re facing those complex global problems and given our footprint and experience I think we can add some more value there,” he said.