Partner Movement in Asia Continues to Build Momentum


Posted on May 5, 2009 at 8:05 PM

Partner-level candidates continue to find opportunities in new office openings in Asia as U.S. and British firms push further into the market. Despite the grim news about attorney attrition at big firms, numerous international firms that have laid off employees domestically continue to hire in Asia. Much of this trend is limited to partner candidates specifically qualified to practice in Asia, but associate jobs are following, as those partners need support. In fact, Above the Law reported on April 20 that associate placements in Asia are occurring at a brisk pace.

Certain practice areas seem particularly attractive to Asia-bound partners: international arbitration, litigation, IP, private equity and projects/energy are just a few of the places in which firms seem increasingly interested in beefing up their Asia offices.

When Goodwin Procter opened an office in Hong Kong in January 2009, it moved several key partners to the office: Yash Rana heads up the office, and he is joined by partner Brian McDaniel. These Hong Kong-based attorneys lead a practice that focuses on helping private equity and venture capital clients form funds and invest in Asian companies, especially in China and India, as well as helping technology and life sciences companies with operations or expansion opportunities in the region.

According to Goodwin Proctor, the firm plans to explore additional opportunities for office locations in Asia as part of its long-term global strategy.

On April 1, 2009, SJ Berwin launched its first office in Hong Kong to serve China and East Asia, with three partners founding the office: Asia managing partner Daniel Liew, Peter Tse, and Hans Thomas Kessler, and one consultant, Giovanna Kwong. Their practice focuses on securities, fund formation, corporate, M&A, real estate, energy, infrastructure and litigation.

Minter Ellison has acquired Hong Kong firm Cordells for its projects practice in preparation for a rise in government-funded infrastructure work. Cordells was a boutique property and real estate firm that consisted of two lawyers that will also join Minter Ellison’s current Asia office. The lawyers are Hilary Cordell, one of Hong Kong’s leading property development and commercial real estate lawyers, and Fiona Connell, a specialist in infrastructure project development and financing.

In early April 2009, White & Case announced it is moving partner Sebastian Buss from its London office to Singapore to assume local partner duties with the firm’s Asia Energy, Infrastructure, Project and Asset Finance Practice Group. His extensive experience in the field of aviation finance and leasing transactions, as well as his broad background in international finance transactions with a particular focus on project finance, is helping to expand White & Case’s practice in the Asia-Pacific region, according to the firm, which has added four partners to its Singapore office in the last year: Kaya Proudian (capital markets), Doug Peel (energy, infrastructure, project and asset finance), Will Kirschner (M&A) and Kate Allchurch (bank finance).

Effective May 1, 2009, Linklaters is promoting one of its earliest Asian trailblazers, Zili Shao, who is the current managing partner for Greater China, to Asia managing partner. In his new role, Shao will join the firm’s executive committee and will relocate from Shanghai to Hong Kong. Shao has been the managing partner of the firm’s practice in Greater China since 2003; he headed the China practice from 1998 to 2003, during which time he helped with the establishment of Linklaters’ Beijing and Shanghai offices.

Latham & Watkins has officially confirmed that seven lawyers from the corporate team of international firm Allen & Overy have joined the firm. Michael Liu, Stanley Chow, Simon Berry, Kenneth Chan, Cathy Yeung, William Woo and Jane Ng will all join Latham & Watkins’ Hong Kong office. Robert Dell, the firm’s chairman and managing partner, said that the move will allow it to pick up work from the expected rise in Asia-related corporate transactions once the global economy stabilizes.

A recent office opening by Bird & Bird in Singapore involved a merger of sorts – the creation of a “global association” in this case – with Alban Tay Mahtani & de Silva LLP (ATMD) one of Singapore’s leading law firms. With just 10 partners and 20 other lawyers, this may be an office to watch as it expands to assist Asian clients in corporate and commercial work, especially in the area of technology.

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