Update: PRC Law Firms’ Increasing International Action

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Posted on June 29, 2010 at 2:06 PM


In the past six months, PRC firms have hired a significant number of partners from international firms to strengthen their international business practice and broaden their capabilities in advising cross-border transactions.

Former DLA antitrust lawyer Liu Cheng has joined King & Wood as counsel for its international trade group. Cheng has previously worked at BASF China, where he was responsible for trade, investment, antitrust and commercial matters. Before BASF, Cheng practiced at King & Spalding’s Washington office and at Beijing T&D Associates as consultant and associate respectively. Cheng adds to King & Wood’s growing reputation for its international trade and antitrust practice.

Shanghai’s largest law firm, Albright, has appointed David Tang, former senior counsel at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, as partner. Tang believes that as firms upgrade themselves, they want new lawyers who will bring international books of business with them and help move the firm up to an international platform. As the Chinese economy continues to thrive, opportunities at domestic firms emerge, in contrast with certain restrictions imposed on international firms, and this trend of international lawyers making the switch will continue.

We are also seeing more and more PRC law firms strengthening their US presence and hiring foreign partners here in the US. Jun He, which opened its New York office in 1994, has secured the service of three IP partners from leading US firms in preparation for opening a new office in Silicon Valley. Two of the new partners joining Jun He are James Zhu and Zoe Wang, who previously served as Beijing and Shanghai Managing Partners respectively of Seattle-based US firm Perkins Coie. The third new partner is Steven Cui, joining from Jones Day’s Beijing office, where he was a counsel practicing IP law with an emphasis on patent procurement, technology transfer, and portfolio management.

“The arrival of the three new partners and their respective teams has bolstered the capabilities of our international IP practice group, and signals a new phase of growth for the firm in 2010,” says David Liu, senior partner at Jun He.  He adds that “the new partners will be leading the development of our soon to be launched Silicon Valley office, and will bring in many new PE and VC clients, who need strong patent legal advice and services when they invest into high-tech enterprises that are in growing and expanding stages”. David Liu finds that while partner lateral hires from international counterparts were not unheard of in the past, the necessity of them for PRC firms and the willingness of international partners to join local firms have never been greater.

Kirk Tong, partner of Jun He, explained that the firms doesn’t want to grow the New York office to a large-sized independent practice and compete with US firms, but instead wants to actively work with US firms to ensure that their clients receive quality legal advice in the US. He finds that as PRC firms are increasingly involved in large cross-border transactions, it’s necessary for top-tier PRC firms to establish a presence in important international jurisdictions.

Zhong Lun, one of the largest full service law firms in China, which recently opened a Hong Kong office, is also looking to expand into the US. Managing Partner Zhang Xuebing has confirmed New York as the most likely destination should the firm open another office, and stated, “…Americans are the biggest investors in the PRC. A lot of PRC companies are also keen to list on the New York Stock Exchange and acquire foreign assets.”

Richard Wang & Co has had an office in New York since 1994, and Deheng has had a long presence in Chicago. Another firm with a growing presence in the US is King & Wood, which opened a San Francisco Bay Area office in 2001 and a New York office in 2008. King & Wood has stated that this setting will offer a local presence for their US clients and partners and also assist their domestic Chinese clients who are increasing their outbound investments and require their support within the US. The firm’s relationships with a growing number of American companies and law firms, coupled with China’s outbound investment trend, led it to expand into the US.


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