Llinks ends 3-year HK association with Vivien Teu & Co

Shanghai law firm Llinks Law Offices has ended its three-year-long association with boutique Hong Kong law firm Vivien Teu & Co, and entered into a new tie-up with Dennis Fong & Co.

Following a string of departures, Vivien Teu, which had 14 lawyers in April, now has just two: Founding partner Vivien Teu and senior associate Christina Suen.  Llinks and Vivien Teu established their association in April 2015, shortly after the Hong Kong firm was launched.

Llinks said that back then the two firms had the same vision of offering specialist and one-stop China and Hong Kong legal services with a focus on funds, asset management, IPOs and M&A.  “However, we decided to terminate the association as we found we no longer shared the same vision,” said David Yu, managing partner of Llinks.

Dennis Fong, the new alliance firm, was formed after a five-lawyer team led by Fong left Viven Teu & Co. Fong specializes in IPOs, M&A and general corporate finance and commercial matters, which is in line with Llinks’ main areas of practice in Hong Kong.  The firm now has nine lawyers, including two partners.

Managing partner David Yu said Dennis Fong was on the lookout for partner and associate-level hires in four practice areas: Corporate/M&A, capital markets, asset management and dispute resolution.

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Up to 40 staff may be leaving Reed Smith in HK

Denise Jong, the APAC managing partner of Reed Smith Richards Butler, has confirmed that up to 40 people could be leaving the firm soon, including partners, fee-earners and secretaries.

While the exact number is still up in the air, Jong confirmed to Leaders in Law that the firm is aware of the intentions of David Morrison and five other partners from the firm’s Hong Kong-based disputes team to join MinterEllison in January next year.

The other partners are believed to be William Barber, Alex Kaung, Eddy So, Nathan Dentice, and Desmond Yu. MinterEllison could not be reached for comment. In a media release supplied to ALB, Jong said that conflicts in any law firm “as large and complex as Reed Smith” are a fact of life.

“It is inevitable that, over time, certain representations taken by the firm pose issues for litigators whose clients might need to be adverse to an industry focus of the firm,” she said.

“Our Hong Kong office has a strong and diverse litigation group, as well as a leading corporate group in Hong Kong and Asia. Notwithstanding the departures, we will continue to have 20 partners and, in total, about 100 fee earners in our Hong Kong office, one of four offices in Asia.”

Pillsbury Adds China-Focused Litigation Partner in New York

As bilateral hostilities between the world’s two largest economies persists, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has recruited a litigation partner in New York who focuses on China-related disputes.

Geoffrey Sant joins from Dorsey & Whitney, where he was a New York partner in the firm’s trial department. Sant mostly helps Chinese companies and executives defend securities class actions and other commercial and employment claims before U.S. courts.

Sant will be a partner in Pillsbury’s New York office and spend “a substantial amount of time in Asia.” Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, he will primarily work out of the firm’s Beijing office and also spend time in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Taipei.

He joined Dorsey & Whitney in 2012 after spending four years with Morrison & Foerster; he became a partner at Dorsey in 2016.

The hire comes at a time when the United States and China are in an escalating battle over trade issues. Multiple rounds of high-level negotiations have taken place, but little progress has been made. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is tightening scrutiny of Chinese companies and individuals on the cybersecurity and intellectual property fronts.

Last week, the Department of Justice indicted a group of Chinese government officials for alleged trade secret theft. Also last week, the Department of Commerce banned all exports to Chinese semiconductor maker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co. Ltd. amid intellectual property theft allegations.

Deborah Baum, Pillsbury’s Washington, D.C.-based litigation practice leader, said Sant’s ability to collaborate with Chinese clients and understand complex Chinese laws and documents will help serve the firm’s clients well.

In August, Pillsbury opened an intellectual property-focused Taipei office with trial lawyer Christopher Kao and patent specialist David Tsai. In 2016, it launched a Hong Kong office, led by former Clyde & Co global aviation finance head Paul Jebely, primarily focusing on commercial aircraft and private jets financing work. Sant said the financial services and aviation sectors—focuses for Pillsbury in Asia—are also rapidly expanding aspects of his practice.

The firm’s Beijing office, led by former Paul Hastings partner David Livdahl, was opened in 2014. The Shanghai office, led by IP litigation partner Jack Ko, was launched in 2006.

Macau firm plots regional Greater Bay Area coverage

MdME Lawyers has made history as the first Macau law firm established in Hong Kong following approval from Hong Kong’s Law Society to register as a foreign firm and practice Macau law in Hong Kong.

MdME, which made the announcement on the same day the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge was opened to the public, bills itself as bridging the gap between the two legal markets by focusing on opportunities that span both markets.

Founded in 2006, with over 25 fee-earners, the full-service firm has represented large corporations operating in Macau across sectors such as finance, gaming, real estate, energy, construction, infrastructure, pharma and telecom.

Gonçalo Mendes da Maia, founding and Managing Partner of MdME said the new Hong Kong office would help the firm achieve its goal to become “a truly regional firm in the Greater Bay Area”.

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Int’l law firms clash with HK Law Society

Partners from 15 international law firms in Hong Kong have drafted a letter expressing their concerns over proposed rules from the Law Society that would curtail employment opportunities for foreign lawyers in Hong Kong, and tighten up so-called “loopholes” in the city’s legal market.

The South China Morning Post first broke the story, revealing that the Law Society had sent a letter to consulting firms in early October proposing fresh restrictions on lawyers who qualified outside Hong Kong. Under the new guidelines, they would only be able to offer legal advice on cases that involved the jurisdictions they were registered in. Hong Kong law firms would also have to employ two local lawyers for one foreign lawyer, up from a ratio of one to one.

Hong Kong-based partners from international law firms, including Linklaters, Davis Polk & Wardwell, Latham & Watkins, Paul Hastings, Kirkland & Ellis, and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, were among those who signed the joint letter to Melissa Kaye Pang, president of the Law Society, voicing their concerns about the changes. While foreign lawyers are currently prohibited from directly handling Hong Kong cases, law firms based in the special administrative region reportedly sidestep this by employing such lawyers in cases that include foreign elements, and having a local lawyer sign the legal recommendation. This may allow them to avoid being named a “practicing” lawyer, as they are technically only serving in an advisory role.

One of the issues raised following the announcement by the Law Society has been the question of what defines foreign or local lawyers, as one source told SCMP that many “foreign” lawyers in Hong Kong are citizens who have studied law overseas.  Since the story broke, the Law Society has extended the consultation period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31.

Withers Recruits Disputes Partners in Hong Kong, Singapore

Soo Khim Keoy and two associates join the Hong Kong office from Baker McKenzie, while Amarjit Kaur joins Withers KhattarWong in Singapore from Morgan Lewis Stamford.

 

Withers has hired dispute resolution partners in Hong Kong and Singapore, hiring them away from Baker McKenzie and Morgan Lewis.

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Ex-regulator launches Japanese antitrust boutique

Tsuyoshi Ikeda, a former investigator for Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC), has left Japanese Big Four law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto to start an antitrust and consumer protection boutique called Ikeda & Someya.

During his time at the JFTC, Ikeda participated in around 20 dawn raids, prepared the implementation of the leniency system and investigated a case involving standard-essential patents.

At Mori Hamada, where Ikeda was a counsel, he worked on cartel, merger review, and other types of antitrust/competition cases. Earlier, he was an associate attorney at Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners.

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Sidley, Debevoise star in China Re’s $950 mln acquisition of Chaucer

Sidley Austin has advised China Reinsurance Group (China Re) on its $950 million acquisition of Chaucer Insurance, a unit of Hanover Insurance Group that underwrites risks at insurance market Lloyd’s, with Debevoise & Plimpton advising the seller.

According to Reuters, China Reinsurance will fund the deal to buy Chaucer with $865 million in cash and $85 million in dividends from the unit. In a statement, Hanover said that sale of Chaucer would reduce its catastrophe and tail risk exposure and improve long-term operating return-on-equity potential.

The Sidley team was led by London-based partner Martin Membery and Beijing-based partner Henry Ding.

The Debevoise team was led by London-based partner Jeremy Hill.  The transaction is expected to close late this year or in the first quarter of next year, subject to the approvals from the general meeting of China Re and domestic and foreign regulators.

INDIA

India’s HSA absorbs four-lawyer Bengaluru boutique

Indian law firm HSA Advocates has taken over four-lawyer Bengaluru-based firm Atman Law Partners, which is led by partner Chinmay Mirji. Atman’s practice areas include corporate, litigation and real estate.

Mirji, who will become a partner at HSA, specialises in negotiations and transaction advisory roles, and incorporate, M&A and investment transactions.

HSA has offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengaluru. The Bengaluru office was opened in 2016.

Singapore

Pinsent Masons lands energy partner in Singapore from HSF

Pinsent Masons has expanded its energy resources and infrastructure practice with the appointment of Brian Scott as corporate partner in Singapore from Herbert Smith Freehills.

Scott, who focuses on oil and gas, spent 14 years with Herbert Smith Freehills, including seven years at the firm’s associated firm in Indonesia, Hiswara Bunjamin Tandjung. He will be relocating to Perth in 2019, but still covering the Asia-Pacific region.

Scott’s arrival takes the total number of partners at Pinsent Masons’ Singapore office to 13. Its joint law venture firm in Singapore, Pinsent Masons MPillay, has an additional three partners.