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Hogan Lovells seals tie-up in Shanghai Free Trade Zone

Hogan Lovells has entered into a formal association with 170-lawyer Fujian Fidelity in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone.

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It follows a similar move by Baker & McKenzie and FenXun Partners last year, which became the first international and PRC law firms to enter into a joint operation in the trade zone.

Hogan Lovells already has offices in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai. The latest association adds seven offices to its Asia network.

Hogan Lovells partners Andrew McGinty and Zhen Feng will be responsible for managing the relationship with the Chinese firm.

The Shanghai Free Trade Zone was set up as part of new rules that allow foreign law firms in China to team up with local firms.

Asia remains a key part of Hogan Lovells’ strategy, with the firm entering into an association with Indonesia firm Dewi Negara Fachi & Partners (DNFP) in June, eight months after ending its previous alliance in the region.        

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Sidley Austin pulls off three-strong team hire in Hong Kong

Sidley Austin hired three arbitration lawyers from O’Melveny & Myers, including partner Friven Yeoh, who was most recently the head of the latter firm’s Hong Kong office.

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Yeoh, who joined O’Melveny in 2009, was appointed Hong Kong managing partner last year. Following his departure, the firm has appointed Denis Brock to head his Hong Kong office. Brock joined from King & Wood Mallesons in 2014.

Joining Yeoh are counsel Desmond Ang and Yan Zhang.

This bolstering of Sidley’s litigation and dispute resolution department follows litigation head Charles Allen’s recent move from Sidley to Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe.

In June, O’Melveny lost another Asia-based managing partner, this time in Shanghai. DLA Piper hired Li Qiang as well as counsel Stewart Wang.

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Multiple hires for Ince JLV in Singapore

Ince Law Alliance, the Singapore joint law venture (JLV) between Ince & Co and local firm Incisive Law, has bolstered its ranks by hiring from Allen & Gledhill and Bond Dickinson.

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Last year, Ince lost Richard Lovell, managing partner of its Singapore office, and Mohan Subbaraman, head of Incisive Law, to Reed Smith. Martin David, previously Ince’s Asia-Pacific energy head, has also left, joining Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow.

The new hires include Felicia Tan, who joins from A&G as the director of the JLV’s litigation team, as well as litigation and arbitration lawyer Moses Lin, who joins as a partner from Hill Dickinson.

Additionally, Edgar Chin has been promoted to joint managing director at Incisive Law. He will be working alongside shipping specialist Bill Ricquier.

Incisive Law has also hired Justin Seet and Samantha Ch’ng as junior associates.

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CMS, Nabarro and Olswang to merge to make UK’s sixth-biggest firm

One of the largest tie-ups in the UK legal services industry is being planned by law firms CMS UK, Nabarro and Olswang to create an international group better able to challenge the elite “magic circle” of five leading British rivals.

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The merger of the three firms, which will trade as CMS, will create the sixth-largest law firm in the UK by revenue, and will employ a team of 4,500 lawyers in 36 countries. The merger is expected to complete in May next year.

The deal comes as more law firms are seeking revenue growth outside the UK, and in particular are trying to broaden businesses in fast growing markets such as Asia rather than being reliant on the UK economy.

In recent years, “magic circle” law firms such as Clifford Chance have pulled away from smaller rivals by opening international offices to serve global corporate clients that require access to English courts and law that is used to underpin business contracts.

Penelope Warne, senior partner for CMS UK, said the deal was a sign of confidence in the City of London, adding that the three firms had been in talks before the Brexit vote.

“We didn’t feel that Brexit was a reason for us not to do this,” said Ms Warne. “It’s a sign of confidence in the City.”

She said that the three-way tie-up would create an enlarged law firm with greater expertise in six key sectors, including energy, financial services and technology. The firm will have offices in 36 countries, including a greater presence in fast growing markets in Latin America.

The firm will also invest more in new technology, including artificial intelligence, which is increasingly allowing greater automation of routine work in law firms.

“The legal sector is no different from the general business sector in facing disruption from technology,” Ms Warne said. “It was important to combine all three firms all of whom have different sector expertise … we want to drive technology through our business for the benefit of clients.”

The new firm will employ 2,500 lawyers in the UK. Combined revenues will be £450m in the UK but well in excess of €1.2bn globally.

Industry experts warned that many UK-focused law firms were struggling to compete as the legal market became more global, and as new technology is used to automate work.

“It’s a symptom of the weakness of these smaller English firms that don’t have an international presence. It’s part of the evolutionary process,” said Nick Cherryman, partner at King & Spalding, the US law firm. “If you look at the law firms with greater profitability, it’s those who have a large international footprint.”

He added: “The domestic London firms have not just stayed still but they’ve gone backwards. The talent is going to the big law firms. They have less of the talent and less market share.”

Law firms are also facing new competitors. The UK’s Legal Services Act 2007, which was designed to make the purchase of legal services more accessible, has paved the way for professional services firms — such as PwC — to expand into the legal sector.

 

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Simmons & Simmons nabs White & Case partner duo for Milan team

Simmons & Simmons has poached two partners from White & Case in Italy, a year after the firm closed its Rome office.

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Capital markets partners Paola Leocani and Nicholas Lasagna have both joined Simmons’ Milan office.

The hires come a year after Simmons’ consolidated its Italian offices by closing its doors in Rome and relocating its partners to Milan. The firm’s nine Rome partners were moved to Milan while its associates were offered the opportunity to relocate rather than lose their jobs.

At the time Simmons’ senior partner Colin Passmore said that the firm was still committed to the Italian market but added that the majority of its clients were located in Milan.

Leocani’s practice focuses on debt and securitised derivatives as well as liability management transactions and equity capital markets. She joined White & Case in 2013 after working as a partner at Allen & Overy (A&O) for seven years.

Lasagna advises clients on bank finance and capital market transactions. He specialises in leverage finance, acquisition finance, bond private placements, syndicated loans and debt restructuring finance matters. He worked as a partner at White & Case after joining the firm in 2011 from Latham & Watkins. Prior to that he worked as a senior associate at Clifford Chance.

Simmons’ international financial markets head Jonathan Hammond said: “Their arrival emphasises our continued commitment to developing our international capital markets offering and brings the number of partners who have joined our international financial markets practice so far this year to 10.”

Simmons recently lost four intellectual property partners in London to A&O after the magic circle firm pulled off a string of successful raids on the firm. A&O poached Simmons head of IP Marc Döring and partner Marjan Noor earlier in the year before picking up partners Mark Heaney and David Stone last month.

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Freshfields muscles in on A&O relationship to advise Misys’ £500m IPO

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer is advising new client Misys on its £500m IPO, with Kirkland & Ellis and Linklaters also picking up mandates.

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Financial software maker Misys was taken private by Vista Equity Partners in 2012 after beating off competing bids from Temenos and CVC Capital Partners.

The decision to list Misys comes after months of speculation regarding Vista’s stake in the company, with the latter thought to have been heading towards a sale rather than flotation.

Freshfields won Misys as a new client after pitching for the work. The team was led by co-head of international capital markets Sarah Murphy and partner Mark Austin.

Meanwhile Kirkland partner Gavin Gordon acted for Misys’ current owners Vista Equity Partners, with the US firm having a longstanding relationship with the private equity house.

Linklaters took the lead role for the banks, with partners John Lane and partner Jason Manketo advising on the finance side.

Misys exists to raise approximately £500m with the listing and expects to debut on the London Stock Exchange next month.

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SPB takes international arbitration head from K&L Gates

Squire Patton Boggs has hired Haig Oghigian as the head of its international arbitration practice in Tokyo from K&L Gates, where he led the commercial disputes practice.

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A former co-chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s litigation and dispute resolution practice, Oghigian has served as counsel and arbitrator in over 100 matters including those related to M&A, joint ventures, licence and distribution agreements and market entry compliance and regulatory issues. He is a member of a number of international arbitration institutions, including the International Cour of Arbitration (ICC), Hong Kong International Arbitration Center (HKIAC) and Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC).

Oghigian is the second senior appointment to be made by the firm in Tokyo recently, following the hire of Scott Warren as a cybersecurity partner in July. Warren was a former general counsel for Sega and senior attorney at Microsoft Japan.

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Would Brexit mean the end of the Unified Patent Court?

The Unitary European Patent system aims to support innovation by cutting red tape, costs and save time by automatically validating a single patent in all EU countries that have ratified the Unified Patent Court treaty and which have at the same time adhered to the UE regulation on the European unitary patent.

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It will provide significant advantages for inventors, as under the current European Patent Office (EPO) scheme the European patents after grant by the EPO are still treated as national rights, subject to the national court jurisdictions of each member state, and in certain countries also to the filing of a translation of granted patent in the national language.

As part of the plans, the new Unified Patent Court will have a central division based in three locations:  Paris, for disputes about physics and electricity inventions; Munich, for mechanical engineering patents; and Aldgate Tower in London, for pharmaceuticals and life sciences, chemistry and metallurgy patent disputes.

It will rely on expert judges recruited from countries that have ratified the treaty. Potential British and other judges have already been pre-selected. It has taken about 40 years to reach an agreement on the new system.

As the new system involves accepting EU law, the basic principle of state liability for the implementation of EU law and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, it appears the UK Government will be reluctant to ratify the treaty after Brexit vote.

The Unified Patent Court is distinct and independent of the European institutions, and organised by its own treaty, but as mandated by a preliminary opinion delivered by the ECJ it is open to ratification only by EU countries.  The Unified Patent Court treaty has not yet been ratified by Germany and the UK, although France and 10 other countries in Europe have done so. Italy has started the process of ratification. The UK is still a “contracting member state” of the UPC system, so until further notice, it still continues to participate and vote in meetings and will remain active in the initiative.

As Italy is the country that has the highest number of patent filings after Germany UK and France, under the treaty rules it would be Italy that would be considered as the location for chemistry – pharmaceutical disputes of the Central division of new court, if the UK refuses to ratify.

Italy, and likely Milan, that will also host a local division of the court, could soon be a candidate for hosting the central division. Milan is a key centre for innovation in life sciences and IP expertise. The court in Milan currently manages most parts of the Italian patent litigation and the experienced Milan specialist court is appreciated by IP practitioners, for being  efficient, reliable, open and receptive to new international IP trends, and for its carefully reasoned decisions.

In a separate development, the Italian Government together with local regional authorities of Lombardia and the municipality of Milan also recently adopted a common proposal, for Milan to host the offices of the European Medicine Agency.  Milan is ready to reflect its key central role in Europe for pharma innovation, research and patent litigation.

On this basis, an Italian trade body for patent attorneys and trademark experts recently wrote to the Italian Prime Minister to request that he officially applies for Milan to be selected for the new court location.

If the UK refuses to ratify the treaty, the current agreement may be renegotiated. The implementation of the new court will also be delayed.

Interestingly, a renegotiation could lead to a new opportunity, for countries that are not current members of the European Union to be eligible to join in the Unified Patent Court system. Such an enlargement might encourage the UK Government to support the recognise the supremacy of the European Court and of EU law, only for the purposes of the Unified Patent Court disputes. But this even if theoretically feasible, it may be politically unacceptable.

This would also be helpful for the pharma sector itself, as it strongly relies on patent protection and a unified jurisdiction may offer an opportunity to protect its innovation and to resolve disputes promptly and more efficiently in the European Union. Delays in ratification and in the implementation of the new court would represent a step back on the development of IP law in Europe and for European competitiveness in the global landscape.

 

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Global M&A deal value drops 50% but Wachtell tops rankings

The value of UK M&A deals dropped by 45 per cent in the first nine months of 2016, new research has found.

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Despite the decline, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Herbert Smith Freehills and Davis Polk & Wardwell came out on top in terms of deals done.

According to data from Thomson Reuters, the combined value of UK M&A deals between the start of 2016 and now stood at $195.5bn. This compares to $354.1bn at the same point last year.

The drop in value is in spite of ARM Holdings’ takeover by Softbank for £24bn earlier this year, which gifted roles to Freshfields, Slaughter and May, Davis Polk and Morrison & Foerster.

While Freshfields continues to rule the roost in terms of UK M&A (it has worked on 56 transactions worth $77.2bn so far this year) it still lags behind Clifford Chance in the worldwide rankings.

Clifford Chance came in eleventh place globally, having acted on 177 deals worth $164.2bn this year, compared to Freshfields’ 142 transactions valued at $163.7bn.

Clifford Chance’s success in the global rankings can be in part attributed to its work in the European market, trailing just Cravath Swaine & Moore in terms of deals on the Continent. Recent top roles including working on ChemChina’s $43bn of Syngenta and Bayer’s $62bn bid for Monsanto.

While the value of UK M&A deals has dropped by 45 per cent this year, the value of European M&A deals has fallen by 25 per cent from $919bn to $734bn.

The US market has also decline, down 39 per cent on this time last year. Globally deal value has fallen nearly 50 per cent compared to last year, despite the same number of deals being announced at around 30,000 in total.

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz takes the crown at the top of the global M&A rankings so far this year, overtaking Sullivan & Cromwell.

US corporate heavyweight Wachtell advised on 72 deals including Monsanto and Bayer, as well as Johnson Controls’ merger with Tyco. Wachtell’s transactions amounted to a deal value of $336.6bn ahead of Sullivan’s total of $335.7bn.

White & Case and Davis Polk remain in the top five, although Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has dropped slightly making way for Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom. White & Case has advised on a large number of deals – a total of 204 – while Sullivan & Cromwell still leads the tables in terms of transaction value after acting on just 92 transactions since the start of this year at a value of $335.7bn.

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DLA Piper combines with IP boutique in Canada

DLA Piper has boosted its presence in Canada with the takeover of Toronto intellectual property (IP) firm Dimock Stratton.

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The deal, which takes effect as of 1 November, combines one of Canada’s top IP firms into the 3,756-lawyer Swiss verein that is DLA Piper.

Dimock, which was founded in 1994, has 16 lawyers. The firm has been involved in one out of every five patent trials in Canada and its co-founder, Ronald Dimock, has handled more patent trials than any other lawyer in the country, arguing before the Supreme Court of Canada in several of the nation’s most important cases in IP law.

Despite Canada’s struggling economy, global firms remain keen on increasing their local presence, drawn by its petroleum and other natural resources, as well as its connections to the Asian market.

DLA’s expansion comes just a week after a pair of rival global legal giants announced notable moves in Canada. Norton Rose Fulbright absorbed 92-lawyer Vancouver firm Bull Housser & Tupper, while Dentons announced a joint venture with a consultancy led by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

DLA entered the Canadian market 18 months ago by combining with 260-lawyer Davis. The Dimock takeover boosts lawyer headcount in Toronto to about 73 lawyers, according to its website, and to just shy of 300 nationally, said the firm’s Canada managing partner Robert Seidel.

Dimock has an enviable client list, including the likes of BMW, Cisco Systems and Procter & Gamble.

“[Dimock was] looking for opportunities to go beyond what a boutique platform could provide,” Seidel said. “DLA Piper was a very attractive offer for them.”