Asia Legal Market: Semi-Annual Report

This report provides a summary of the legal market developments in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Seoul during the second half of 2014.


HONG KONG

The recent news of Fried Frank withdrawing from Asia has cast a question mark over the Asia legal market and the commitments of international law firms to the region. We believe the Fried Frank pull-out is anomalous and that it will have limited impact on what other foreign firms will do in 2015. Still, there has been significant introspection within management committees of several US and UK firms following this news. 

Firms are scrutinizing their profitability across their Asian offices. They are paying particular notice to their corporate securities practices in Hong Kong and assessing how to leverage their teams internally and how to position themselves externally on pricing and value-add in an aggressive market.

Interestingly, we also have heard that some firms are looking to restructure and slim down local management by asking Partners to return to "what they do best – being a lawyer". Another related response to profit assessments seems to be the emergence of COO, CFO, and Head of Business Development hires among some of the full service, mid-tier firms. 

Generally, last year we saw a 50% increase in lateral partner moves in the region. These moves were made across all practices in both the UK and US firms. The corporate practice, unsurprisingly, dominated the majority of moves, but the funds, restructuring, and employment practices also saw healthy activity. We also have seen a few firms such as DLA Piper and Bingham McCutchen (through merger) significantly change their headcount in the region.

Partner Moves - Hong Kong

 

Date

Partners

Practice

From

To

Dec 2014

Vincent Sum

Structured Finance

Bingham McCutchen

Mayer Brown JSM

Dec 2014

Ed Sheremeta

Real Estate

DLA Piper

Ropes & Gray

Dec 2014

Michael Liu

Corporate

Latham & Watkins

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Dec 2014

Jane Ng

Corporate

Latham & Watkins

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Dec 2014

Stephen Chan

Corporate

Latham & Watkins

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Dec 2014

Sarah Catchpole

Aviation

Norton White, Sydney

Kennedys

Dec 2014

Martin Lister

Insurance

Edwards Wildman Palmer

Simmons & Simmons

Nov 2014

Mark Johnson

Litigation

Herbert Smith Freehills

Debevoise & Plimpton

Nov 2014

Johnny Chiu

Intellectual Property

Morrison Foerster, Washington

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft,

Hong Kong and Washington

Nov 2014

Bronwen May

Finance

O’Melveny & Myers

Hogan Lovells

Nov 2014

Gary Li

Corporate

Ropes & Gray

Kirkland & Ellis

 

Nov 2014

Ben Hammond

Financial Services Regulatory

Slaughter and May

Ashurst

Oct 2014

Randall Arthur

Dispute Resolution

Gall

Kobre & Kim

Oct 2014

Patrick Sinclair

Government Enforcement

U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York

Ropes & Gray

Oct 2014

Jonathan Silver

Shipping Finance

Howse William Bowers

Norton Rose Fulbright

Oct 2014

Mark Fucci

Restructuring

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Oct 2014

Anne-Marie Godfrey

Funds

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Oct 2014

Matthew Puhar

Corporate

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Oct 2014

Charles Rogers

Corporate

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Oct 2014

Naomi Moore

Restructuring

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Oct 2014

Bob Charlton

Project Finance

DLA Piper

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Oct 2014

Damien Coles

Restructuring

Hogan Lovells

Kirkland & Ellis

Oct 2014

Neil McDonald

Restructuring

Hogan Lovells

Kirkland & Ellis

Oct 2014

Denis Brock

Dispute Resolution

King & Wood Mallesons

O’Melveny & Myers

Oct 2014

Hao Zhou

Capital Markets

Linklaters

King & Wood Mallesons

Oct 2014

Jolyon Ellwood-Russell

Finance

DLA Piper

Simmons & Simmons

Oct 2014

Steven Tran

M&A

Kirkland & Ellis

Hogan Lovells

Oct 2014

Stephen Crosswell

Competition

Clifford Chance

Baker & McKenzie

Oct 2014

Rowan McKenzie

Employment

Linklaters

Baker & McKenzie

Oct 2014

Bertie Mehigan

Finance

O’Melveny & Myers

Ashurst

Oct 2014

Anna-Marie Slot

Global Finance

White & Case

Ashurst

Sep 2014

Patrick Sinclair

Government Enforcement

U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York

Ropes & Gray

Sep 2014

Jonathan Silver

Shipping Finance

Howse William Bowers

Norton Rose Fulbright

Sep 2014

Charles Rogers

Corporate

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Sep 2014

Naomi Moore

Restructuring

Bingham McCutchen

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

Sep 2014

Bob Charlton

Project Finance

DLA Piper

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Sep 2014

Damien Coles

Restructuring

Hogan Lovells

Kirkland & Ellis

Sep 2014

Neil McDonald

Restructuring

Hogan Lovells

Kirkland & Ellis

Sep 2014

Denis Brock

Dispute Resolution

King & Wood Mallesons

O’Melveny & Myers

Sep 2014

Hao Zhou

Capital Markets

Linklaters

King & Wood Mallesons

Sep 2014

Jolyon Ellwood-Russell

Finance

DLA Piper

Simmons & Simmons

Sep 2014

Steven Tran

M&A

Kirkland & Ellis

Hogan Lovells

Sep 2014

Stephen Crosswell

Competition

Clifford Chance

Baker & McKenzie

Sep 2014

Rowan McKenzie

Employment

Linklaters

Baker & McKenzie

Sep 2014

Bertie Mehigan

Finance

O’Melveny & Myers

Ashurst

Sep 2014

Anna-Marie Slot

Global Finance

White & Case

Ashurst

Aug 2014

Samuel Chau

Banking

Gide Loyrette Nouel

Eversheds

Aug 2014

Marcus Vass

TMT

Bird & Bird

Osborne Clarke

Aug 2014

John Koh

Corporate

Bird & Bird

Osborne Clarke

Aug 2014

Mark Roppel

Corporate

Allen & Overy

DLA Piper

Aug 2014

Damien Coles

Restructuring

O’Melveny & Myers

Hogan Lovells

Jul 2014

Christopher Morley

Litigation

Haldanes

Morley Chow Seto

Jul 2014

Anita Chow

Litigation

Haldanes

Morley Chow Seto

Jul 2014

Eric Seto

Litigation

Haldanes

Morley Chow Seto

Jul 2014

Jeffrey Chen

Finance

Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft

Dentons

Jul 2014

Patricia Tan Openshaw

M&A

Paul Hastings

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Jul 2014

Nigel Pridmore

Finance

Linklaters 

Ashurst

Jun 2014

Esther Leung

Corporate

DLA Piper

June He

Jun 2014

Anthony Woo

Shipping Insurance

Kennedys

Hill Dickinson

Jun 2014

Victor Pang

Corporate, M&A

Reed Smith, Beijing

Zhong Lun Law Firm, Hong Kong

Jun 2014

Larry Kwok 

Corporate Finance

King & Wood Mallesons 

Kwok Yih & Chan

Jun 2014

Conrad Chan

Corporate

King & Wood Mallesons 

Kwok Yih & Chan


BEIJING AND SHANGHAI

Foreign law firms in Beijing continue to look to the capital city for new business development opportunities in the outbound M&A space, but the fee pressures in that market result in many firms failing to turn profits. Overall, in the past 6 months outbound M&A activity by Chinese State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) appears to have slowed down. Corruption scandals continue to make SOEs more cautious which has impacted the level of M&A taking place. We have learned that more than ever, for international law firms to be successful in getting the larger M&A deals from both SOEs and private Chinese companies, firms must engage these clients through a "guanxi" or relationship partner who is typically involved solely in landing the deal, and not in the execution of the matter. For the most part, guanxi partners are PRC nationals with family ties or connections to government officials.

SOEs also are getting more selective these days when choosing their outside counsel, and often only four or five law firms will be on their short lists. Beijing-based antitrust practices are very active, specifically the high profile investigations from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The market for foreign law firms in Shanghai seems to have stabilized over the last 6 months, and many of our clients who represent MNCs and oversees financial institutions in their mainland China on and off-shore transactions are reporting steady growth in the inbound sector. The investigations and anti-corruption practices are also still active with new law firms, especially US law firms, continuing to establish their own practices to keep up with demand from clients. Some international law firms are finding it easier to engage private Chinese companies such as Fosun, which has remained active in overseas investment. The fact that the private companies more readily pay their legal fees is an added advantage, as well as the better recovery rates for firms from these private companies.

Partner Moves - China

 

Date

Partners

Practice

From

To

Dec 2014

Ruixue Ran

Intellectual Property

Jun He Law Offices, Beijing

Covington & Burling, Beijing

Dec 2014

Zhaofeng Zhou

Competition

Taylor Wessing, Beijing

Bird & Bird, Beijing

Dec 2014

Ma Chen

Antitrust

Fangda Partners, Beijing

Han Kun Law Offices, Beijing

Dec 2014

Ron Xie

Antitrust

Microsoft, Beijing (Counsel)

Gaopeng, Beijing

Dec 2014

Lynia Lau

China Energy and Resources

Clyde & Co, Beijing

Stephenson Harwood, Beijing

Dec 2014

Chin Chuan Chen

Finance

Clifford Chance, Beijing

Ashurst, Beijing and Singapore

 

Dec 2014

Ethan Ma

Intellectual Property

Corning Inc

(Director of IP), Shanghai

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, Shanghai

Nov 2014

Lincoln  Zhao

Corporate, M&A

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Shanghai

DaHui Lawyers, Shanghai

 

Oct 2014

Ethan Jin

Capital Markets, M&A

Freshfields, Beijing

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Beijing

Oct 2014

George Chan

Intellectual Property

Rouse International, Beijing

Simmons & Simmons, Beijing

Oct 2014

Ying Wang

Employment

DLA Piper, Shanghai

Bird & Bird, Shanghai

Oct 2014

Gordon Zhu

Private Equity

Shanghai IDEA Law Firm, Shanghai

AnJie Law Firm, Shanghai

Oct 2014

Yibin Xia

Commercial Litigation

Grandall Law Firm, Shanghai

AnJie Law Firm, Shanghai

Oct 2014

Hang Cai

Private Equity

Grandall Law Firm, Shanghai

AnJie Law Firm, Shanghai

Oct 2014

Louis Meng

Corporate

AllBright Law Offices, Shanghai

Haynes and Boone, Shanghai

Oct 2014

Peter Neumann

M&A, Regulatory

Celanese Corp, Shanghai

Broad & Bright, Shanghai

Sep 2014

Ethan Jin

Capital Markets, M&A

Freshfields, Beijing

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Beijing

Sep 2014

George Chan

Intellectual Property

Rouse International, Beijing

Simmons & Simmons, Beijing

Aug 2014

Jenny Sheng

Corporate

Paul Hastings, Beijing

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Beijing

Aug 2014

David Livdahl

Corporate

Paul Hastings, Beijing

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, Beijing

Aug 2014

Frank Niu

Corporate

Baker & McKenzie, Beijing

Dentons, Beijing

Aug 2014

Pang Lee

Private Investment Funds

Shearman & Sterling, Shanghai

Cooley, Shanghai

Jul 2014

Patrick Zheng

Arbitration

Clifford Chance, Beijing

Clyde & Co, Beijing

Jul 2014

Fang Xue

Corporate

Shearman & Sterling, Beijing

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Beijing

Jul 2014

Sharon Shi

Corporate, FDI, M&A

Eversheds, Shanghai

Fredrikson & Byron, Shanghai

Jul 2014

Chengfei Ding

Corporate

Baker & McKenzie, Shanghai

Troutman Sanders, Shanghai

Jul 2014

Gentry Sayad

FCPA

Fredrikson & Byron, Shanghai

Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, Shanghai

Jul 2014

Gary Gao

Dispute Resolution

Duan & Duan, Shanghai

Zhong Lun Law Firm, Shanghai

Jun2014

Li Hua

Corporate

Gide Loyrette Nouel, Beijing

Squire Patton Boggs, Beijing

Jun 2014

Xi Nudong

Banking and Finance

Squire Sanders, Beijing

Concord & Partners, Beijing

Jun 2014

Maria Wang

Corporate

Allen & Overy, Shanghai

Morrison & Foerster, Shanghai


SINGAPORE

Singapore has seen a positive six months. The energy practices remained solid and firms in Singapore are committed to growing these practices. Norton Rose Fulbright, for example, expanded its corporate energy team with the relocation of partner Nick Dingemans from Moscow. Dingemans specializes in cross-border transactions in oil and gas, mining, and financial institution sectors.

Unsurprisingly, international arbitration in Singapore also remains active as has been oft-reported in the legal media. Some key developments include the recent relocation of Linklaters partner, Jelita Pandjaitan. Pandjaitan, a solid hand within the disputes world, is tasked with growing the firm’s Southeast Asia practice and with creating its second Asia hub for litigation. The move is timely as some experts express concern over the legislative changes and shifts of power in Hong Kong’s arbitration arena. It seems that Singapore could benefit from these changes with an increased flow of international arbitration matters and parties seeking a more "fair and neutral" forum for their cases to be heard owing to perceptions of Hong Kong being too close to Beijing and the interests of Chinese companies.

In terms of US capital markets, we have also witnessed a rise in activity. Given the size of the market in Singapore, many international firms will consider relocating lawyers to acquire top talent to service the demands of their clients. The openness to hiring from outside of Singapore also applies to the funds practice. With increasing wealth across Asia, many funds teams have experienced a surge in deal flow. Private equity remains high on the agenda for the investment sector.

Partner Moves - Singapore

 

Date

Partners

Practice

From

To

Dec 2014

Christopher de Souza

Intellectual Property

WongPartnership

Lee & Lee

Dec 2014

Yang Yen Thaw

Corporate

Dacheng Wong Alliance

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Dec 2014

Christopher James (Jamie) Thomas

Finance

White & Case

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher

Dec 2014

Matthew Gorman

M&A, PE, JV

Stephenson Harwood

Reed Smith

Dec 2014

Iain Sharp

Arbitration

Bryan Cave

Rodyk & Davidson

Dec 2014

Seow Hui Goh

Employment

Braddell Brothers

Bird & BIrd

Dec 2014

Rachel Foxton

Commercial Litigation

Cavenagh Law

20 Essex Street

Dec 2014

Mark Cooper

Corporate

Linklaters

Hogan Lovells

Dec 2014

Peggy Lim

Aviation

Clyde & Co

Kennedys

Dec 2014

Anita Quy

Aviation

Clyde & Co

Kennedys

Dec 2014

Sherroy Ong

Corporate

ANZ Banking Group Ltd

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Dec 2014

Chin Chuan Chen

Finance

Clifford Chance

Ashurst, Beijing and Singapore

Nov 2014

James Burch

Finance

Maples and Calder, Singapore

Mourant Ozannes, Cayman Islands

Nov 2014

 

Alex Cull

Energy and Natural Resources

Norton Rose Fulbright

Hogan Lovells

Nov 2014

Chen Yih Pong

Capital Markets

WongPartnership

Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow

Nov 2014

Toshikazu Miyamoto

Corporate

K&L Gates, Tokyo

Duane Morris & Selvam, Singapore

Nov 2014

Gerald Yee

Admiralty and Shipping

Colin Ng & Partners

Clyde & Co.

Nov 2014

Emerson Holmes

Dispute Resolution

Nabarro

Jones Day

Oct 2014

Nandakumar Ponniya

Dispute Resolution

White & Case

Baker & McKenzie. Wong & Leow

Oct 2014

Douglas Koh

Corporate

Colin Ng & Partners

Virtus law

Oct 2014

Biswajit Chatterjee

Capital Markets

DLA Piper

Squire Patton Boggs

Oct 2014

Stella Cramer

Technology

Standard Chartered Bank

Norton Rose Fulbright

Oct 2014

David Johnston

Aviation

Kennedys

Clyde & Co

Oct 2014

Sean La’Brooy

Professional Liability and Insurance

Wee Tay & Lim

Colin Ng & Partners

Sep 2014

Douglas Koh

Corporate

Colin Ng & Partners

Virtus law

Sep 2014

Biswajit Chatterjee

Capital Markets

DLA Piper

Squire Patton Boggs

Sep 2014

Stella Cramer

Technology

Standard Chartered Bank

Norton Rose Fulbright

Sep 2014

David Johnston

Aviation

Kennedys

Clyde & Co

Sep 2014

Sean La’Brooy

Professional Liability and Insurance

Wee Tay & Lim

Colin Ng & Partners

Aug 2014

Dean Collins

Investment Funds

O’Melveny & Myers

Dechert

Aug 2014

Samuel Sharpe (Director)

Corporate Crime and Investigations

DLA Piper (Senior Associate)

Duane Morris & Selvam

Jul 2014

Conrad Campos

Litigation, Dispute Resolution

Tan Peng Chin

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Jul 2014

Arvin Lee

Litigation, Dispute Resolution

Clasis Law

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Jul 2014

Gerard Ng 

Banking and Finance

Eastspring Investments

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Jul 2014

Eugene Quah

Litigation, Dispute Resolution

JLC Advisors

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing

Jul 2014

Kate Allchurch

Banking and Finance

White & Case

Ashurst

Jul 2014

John King

Energy

Clayton Utz

K&L Gates

Jun 2014

Chris Edwards

Shipping

Clyde & Co

Hill Dickinson


SOUTH KOREA

The second half of 2014 witnessed solid market activity in Korea with some key market developments. In terms of active practices in Seoul, corporate hiring remained strong on both the partner and associate side. The disputes and energy sector also continued to show growth. While most foreign law firms on the ground in Seoul focus on transactional work, litigation has proven to be a profitable and vital market for firms representing domestic Korean clients. The demand for top litigators to protect Korean companies’ products, market share, and reputation has significantly increased. For example, while Samsung and Apple may have put to rest their contentious claims outside of the United States, Samsung announced in August that it will take necessary measures to protect its rights against Nvidia Corporation after the US chipmaker sued Samsung for patent infringement.

In the energy and projects practices, Hogan Lovells expanded its Korea market offering by hiring finance partner Joseph Kim in Tokyo (from Paul Hastings) in September. Mr. Kim has a regional finance practice and a firm hold on the Korean project finance sector. He advises on power projects, upstream and midstream natural resources projects, liquid natural gas, and renewable energy projects. As energy becomes increasingly important on the South Korean peninsula, this was a timely hire.

In other key hires, Ropes & Gray announced in November that noted lawyer, HY Kang, from Linklaters was joining their team in Seoul. This move bolsters Ropes' significant corporate group. November also saw Milbank confirm that it would open an office in Seoul. The firm announced that legacy partner YJ Kim would be lead their Korean effort. Interestingly, when Legal Week announced Milbank’s intent to enter the Seoul market, the article also indicated that Latham & Watkins was assessing its options in Korea. We suspect additional firms may consider entering this market, but not many more.

Partner Moves - Seoul

 

Date

Partners

Practice

From

To

Nov 2014

Hyo Young Kang

Corporate

Linklaters

Ropes & Gray

Oct 2014

Young Hoon Park

Employment

Kim & Chang 

Bae, Kim & Lee

Oct 2014

Wook Rae Lee

Employment

Kim & Chang 

Bae, Kim & Lee

Jun 2014

Henry Shin

Corporate

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld

K&L Gates

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