china

Hogan Lovells’ Asia Pacific looks to expand in Shanghai

Hogan Lovells, formed via a merger six years ago, is looking at forming an association with a Chinese firm in Shanghai’s free-trade zone (FTZ).

“China is a key market for us,” said Patrick Sherrington, regional managing partner for the Asia Pacific and Middle East regions at the firm. “We have certainly been considering the possibility of a permitted association in the Shanghai FTZ. That is something under active consideration at the moment.”

The Shanghai FTZ, the first Hong Kong-like trade area in mainland China, was launched in 2013 with the aim of testing liberalization of the Chinese market in key areas such as financial, legal and telecommunications. If Hogan Lovells in successful, it would be the second firm to obtain a license from Chinese regulators to establish a joint operation to practice local law in the area.

Baker & McKenzie was the firm global firm to strike such a deal, entering into an association with FenXun Partners in April 2015. The agreement is not exclusive and the two firms remain structurally separate. International firms have long faced restrictions in China. Foreign lawyers are prohibited from practice Chinese law and appearing in the country’s local courts, and the same applies to any Chinese lawyer hires at international firms.

Hogan Lovells first entered China more than 20 years ago, launching an office first in Beijing in the early 1990s and nearly a decade later opening in Shanghai. Overall, the firm has 55 partners in Asia and 61 in the Asia Pacific region. (Other global firms that have expressed an interest in working with a Chinese firm in the Shanghai FTZ include Dechert, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters and Simmons & Simmons.) 

 

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Sri Lanka Seeks to Grow Economy – With Help From Baker & McKenzie

Baker & McKenzie’s Hong Kong office was hired by the government of Sri Lanka to advise officials on financial laws in other countries and jurisdictions, the firm confirmed Monday.

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Sri Lanka’s Business Times reported on Aug. 21 that the global legal giant will be paid $2.3 million for 12 weeks of work. Some of that work will involve drafting and revising the country’s IP, real estate, restructuring and tax laws, according to the publication.

“Baker & McKenzie is proud to have been selected by the Sri Lankan government to advise on international aspects of developing the legal infrastructure necessary to build a regional financial hub in Colombo,” the country’s capital, according to a statement from a firm spokesman.

The Sri Lankan government has turned to Baker & McKenzie to advise on financial models that have worked for other countries, said the firm’s statement, which noted that local counsel have also been hired. The Sri Lankan government responded to news reports last week with a statement of its own confirming the hire of Baker & McKenzie, but denying other details mentioned by the Business Times, including the implication that the firm would open an office in Colombo. (The publication’s editor responded saying that they never said that the firm would “practice” in Sri Lanka.)

Baker & McKenzie’s statement confirmed that it had not opened an office in Sri Lanka, but said that its current engagement for the country would be led by its Hong Kong office, with help from lawyers in Dubai and elsewhere.

The government’s statement said that Baker & Mc­Kenzie would be advising the country on “the legal implications of the different financial models,” including those in Dubai, Hong Kong, Ireland, the U.K. and the U.K.’s Channel Islands. The government added that the firm is also advising it on Indonesian tax laws.

Baker & McKenzie’s work for the Sri Lankan government is not the firm’s only project in the island nation, which sits southeast of India in the Indian Ocean. In April, lawyers in the firm’s Singapore and London offices advised Switzerland’s LafargeHolcim Ltd.—a building materials giant formed via a 2015 megamerger—on the $400 million divestment of its interests in Holcim Lanka, a Sri Lankan cement plant, to Thailand’s second-largest cement producer.

Sri Lanka’s current president, Maithripala Sirisena, has been working since his election last year to ensure that his country remains peaceful after a brutal civil war that ended in 2009 and left an estimated 100,000 dead.

A cabinet committee on economic management headed by Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremsinghe was established to make recommendations on financial policy that will encourage investment in the country. The Business Times reported that it was this committee that approved the hire of Baker & McKenzie.

“The government’s policy is to make Sri Lanka the hub of the Indian Ocean,” said the government statement, published by the Business Times. “The aim of these efforts is to expand the market for the Sri Lankan products to create 1 million jobs for the Sri Lankans, expand the middle class and revive the rural economy.”

Britain and EU flags

Addleshaw-Hunton merger talks on ice after Brexit vote

Merger talks between U.S. firm Hunton & Williams and U.K. firm Addleshaw Goddard have stalled following the U.K.’s June vote to leave the European Union.

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Partners at the firms have said that the discussions, which were first reported in May of this year but are understood to have begun at the end of 2015, have slowed down in the wake of the EU referendum in order to assess the impact of Brexit on the U.K.

“The U.S. deal is still ongoing but it has slowed because the dust hasn’t settled on Brexit yet,” an Addleshaw partner said.

The forthcoming U.S. presidential election is also understood to have played a part in the delay.

Nothing has yet been formally put to the partnership at Addleshaw but prior to the Brexit vote, talks between the two firms had progressed to a stage where there was a “sufficient degree of conformity that everyone was comfortable with the basics and the feel culturally,” according to one Addleshaw partner.

A deal between the two would create a firm with combined revenue of around £554 million ($733.14 million) and more than 1,300 lawyers.

Hunton & Williams has 14 offices across the U.S., alongside small international outposts in Brussels, Beijing, Tokyo, London and Bangkok, while Addleshaw has three U.K. offices and international offices in Dubai, Hong Kong, Oman, Qatar and Singapore.

A merger would increase both firms’ coverage with relatively little overlap, as the only duplicate office is in London, where Hunton & Williams has a seven-partner base.

Addleshaw posted revenue of £201.8 million ($267.05 million) for the 2015-16 financial year, up from £192.4 million ($254.61 million) the previous year, while profit per equity partner (PEP) soared by 39 percent to £682,000 ($902,531.52), from £491,000 ($649,769.76).

The firm’s results were boosted by fees paid for mandates from previous years, partly connected to the long-running Berezovsky litigation.

In contrast, Hunton & Williams’ turnover dropped 7 percent to $528 million in 2015, making it the 62nd largest firm by revenue in the U.S. Its PEP stood at $950,000, down 5 percent.

In the past 12 months, Addleshaw has also held merger talks with Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens, but they were called off earlier this year after the two sides failed to come to an agreement.

Addleshaw declined to comment and Hunton & Williams did not respond to requests for comment.

hong kong skyline

A&O moves London capital markets head to Hong Kong

Allen & Overy (A&O) is relocating London capital markets partner Stephen Miller to Hong Kong, to lead its Asia capital markets practice.

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When he moves in September, Miller will take on the newly created role of regional practice head.

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Brexit means Brexit … but when?

Leaving the EU may not happen soon given the UK government does not know what it wants and is not yet equipped to ask for it.

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Two months ago on Tuesday, Britain voted to leave the European Union. The shock was immense; the fallout dramatic. But then summer came. The early turbulence subsided and normality (more or less) returned.

Brexit, though, has not yet begun to happen.

The government does not know what it wants and is not yet equipped to ask for it. Britain and the EU, it is increasingly clear, are far more intimately enmeshed than the leave camp had claimed. For all the leavers’ assurances, extricating the UK from the bloc, negotiating new relationships with Europe and the rest of the world – and ensuring that Britain’s laws and practices adapt – is a gargantuan undertaking.

The referendum result, however, is a political reality. The 52% of leave voters – and the politicians who represented them – expect it to be acted upon. So two months on, where does Brexit stand?

The legal challenges

The most immediate obstacle to Brexit is judicial. There is a substantial school of thought which says the government is not constitutionally entitled to pull the trigger on article 50 without the specific approval of parliament.

At least seven private actions have been grouped together and will be heard by the high court starting in October in what judges have said is a “matter of great constitutional importance”, with a decision possible by the end of the year.

Separately, cases have been launched in Northern Ireland arguing that Brexit would breach the Good Friday agreement by reinstating a physical border with the Republic of Ireland and undermining the legal basis for the 1998 peace deal.

So, while we may be two months in, you might want to get used to the waiting. Brexit may not happen quite yet.

Rio De Janeiro

DLA Piper’s Brazil Affiliate Campos Mello Boosts Energy

DLA Piper Brazil affiliate Campos Mello Advogados has added 11 new lawyers, including four new partners, most of whom come from an arm of Mayer Brown.

The attorneys join Campos Mello’s oil and gas, employment and benefits, and judicial recovery practices.

Christ the Redeemer on Corcovado mountain overlooking Rio De Janeiro. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Ten of the 11 attorneys are coming over from Tauil & Chequer Advogados, an affiliate of Mayer Brown in Brazil. The 11th new hire, partner Leandro Rinaldi, has had a solo practice.

The three new partners from Tauil & Chequer are Leonardo Costa, Maurício Tanabe and Sandoval Amui. Costa and Amui, along with associates Fernando Xavier, André Lemos and Anna Carolina Joppert will work in the firm’s energy, oil and gas section. Flavio Luduvice, Daniel Estrela, Loan Reis and Caio Gomes,will work in employment and benefits, along with Tanabe.

“While Tauil & Chequer is a great firm, we were very enthusiastic about the opportunity and challenge to expand CMA’s energy, oil & gas, and employment & benefits offering, with all the support of the great platform of DLA Piper,” the attorneys leaving Tauil & Chequer said in a joint statement.

Mayer Brown said it appreciates the contributions of the departing group and wishes them well in their new endeavors.

“With strong capabilities in the oil and gas sectors, as well as in employment and benefits, our service to Brazilian clients in those areas is unchanged,” said John D. Tuerck, a spokesman for Mayer Brown.

Tauil & Chequer and Mayer Brown announced their affiliation in 2009, noting that the relationship would allow Mayer Brown to offer global clients legal counsel on Brazilian domestic matters governed by Brazilian law, while increasing Tauil & Chequer’s resources for advising clients with respect to investments in Africa, notably Angola, where many of the Brazilian firm’s clients had been active.

DLA Piper and Campos Mello announced their affiliation in 2010, with the firms remaining independent. The firm recently moved from downtown Rio to new office space in southern Rio de Janeiro.

Campos Mello said in a statement that its four new partners bring the firm extensive experience: Amui, who worked for 30 years for Petrobras, focuses his practice on the technical, economic, strategic and legal aspects of the energy business. Costa advises and represents clients in energy, oil and gas projects, mergers and acquisitions and transactions, as well as in international arbitration. Rinaldi, a former professor of bankruptcy law, is a partner in the firm’s insolvency and restructuring practice. Tanabe, a partner in the employment and benefits practice, focuses on labor consultancy and union negotiations.

Campos Mello lost several partners in 2015, including Guido Vinci and Ana Luiza Martins, who departed for Tauil & Chequer and its affiliate Mayer Brown. Vinci and Martins took the bulk of the tax team with them, including four associates, and their departure was accompanied by that of corporate partner Daniella Raigorodsky.

Campos Mello is strengthening nontransactional practice areas, as economic and political turmoil has created a sharp decline in transactional work. It’s a tactic many firms have taken, with several having chosen to prioritize their tax practices.

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EY Legal unveils Americas expansion with key hires

EY launches legal offering in Chile and Argentina.

Big Four accountant expands its legal offering to Chile and Argentina as it hires Norton Rose Fulbright partner in Canada.

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EY set itself a target of expanding to 75 jurisdictions by the end of 2015, but with the addition of Argentina and Chile it now has offices in 73 countries.

hong kong

Sidley Austin HK litigation head moves to Orrick

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe has hired Charles Allen as litigation and dispute resolution partner in Hong Kong from Sidley Austin, where he led the firm’s commercial litigation practice.

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Allen’s practice focuses on commercial litigation, arbitration and investigations. He has represented clients on contractual and tortious disputes, as well as regulatory and other investigations. Allen joined Sidley in 2002 from Simmons & Simmons and became a partner in 2007.

Orrick’s global litigation practice includes 450 lawyers, but Allen is the only litigation partner in the Hong Kong office. In February last year, the firm lost litigator Andrew Dale to Ropes & Gray.

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Brexit faces new legal challenge from NI

 

A victims’ campaigner has launched the first legal challenge in Northern Ireland to the UK leaving the European Union.

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Raymond McCord lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast yesterday seeking a judicial review of the British Government’s move towards Brexit

His lawyers claim it would be unlawful to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without Parliament voting on the move.

They also contend it would undermine the UK’s domestic and international treaty obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, and inflict damage on the peace process. With similar legal action under way in England, efforts are being made to secure an initial court hearing in Belfast next week.

Mr McCord, whose son Raymond jnr was murdered by the UVF in north Belfast in 1997, is believed to be the first person in Northern Ireland to issue proceedings over Brexit. He is taking the case amid concerns that European peace money that goes towards victims of the Troubles may be discontinued.

The challenge centres on the Government’s response to the June 23 referendum result.

His legal team claim they were not given assurances that Article 50, the mechanism under which the UK begins the formal process of leaving the EU, will not be invoked without first securing a Parliamentary mandate. Any attempt to use Royal Prerogative powers instead cannot be justified, they contend.

Mr McCord’s lawyer Ciaran O’Hare, of McIvor Farrell Solicitors, said his client fears Brexit could impact on his fundamental rights. “As a victim of the most recent conflict in Northern Ireland, Mr McCord is very concerned about the profoundly damaging effect that a unilateral withdrawal of the UK from the EU will have upon the ongoing relative stability in Northern Ireland,” he added.

“He is concerned that any withdrawal would be contrary to the UK’s international law obligations pursuant to the Good Friday Agreement.”

Insisting any notification under Article 50 must be done lawfully and constitutionally, Mr O’Hare described the legal challenge as “an important constitutional case which engages the Northern Irish public interest in a way that no other case has or is likely to for many decades”.

India parlement

India Aims To Be The World’s Newest International Arbitration Hub

India is seeking to become the world’s newest international arbitration hub by establishing a new arbitral center in Mumbai. The Mumbai Centre for International Arbitration (MCIA), which begins proceedings this month, will be India’s very first arbitration tribunal. Its supporters hope it will help bring the industry’s best practices to the country. The unveiling of the MCIA underscores the significant growth of India-related arbitration cases in recent years. It also highlights the government’s desire to make India an attractive destination for international arbitration and make it a more compelling destination for business by bringing more reliable adjudication to India’s corporate sector.

Arbitration remains the preferred option for multinational firms conducting business in the country, but India is not the preferred venue to arbitrate claims. The majority of arbitrations currently taking place within India occur on an ad hoc basis. This has resulted in a lack of uniform standards and predictability with respect to the cost-effectiveness, efficiency and outcome of many arbitral proceedings.

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These issues have generated serious inconsistencies with global best practices regarding arbitration, eroding the international legal community’s trust and confidence in the current Indian system. It has also been, plainly speaking, bad for business. Many of the most prominent arbitration cases, including those involving multinational giants Deutsche Telekom and Vodaphone, have moved outside of India because of the absence of institutionalized capacity and expertise in the country.

Can India develop a more popular arbitration venue?

Indian officials are betting that the MCIA will help change this, and the rules governing the MCIA have been drafted specifically to address these shortcomings. These rules provide for an expedited timeline for inexpensive disputes, mechanisms that cater to multi-party and multi-contract scenarios, the availability of an emergency arbitrator, and a deadline for the tribunal to render its final award, among others. Released in June 2016, the MCIA rules were designed by a committee comprised of leading arbitration practitioners both in India and abroad.

The Indian government is hoping the MCIA will help fill an important need that has been created by India’s recent booming economic growth, occurring at more than 7% by some estimates. The robust rise has resulted in a surge of foreign investment into the country, and with it, the need for access to alternate dispute resolution mechanisms.

The key question is whether these measures will succeed in making India a more popular arbitration venue. The MCIA’s success will depend largely on the willingness of companies operating in India to seek redress in the new tribunal. For both foreign and domestic companies, foreign-seated arbitration centers in Paris, London, Geneva, Hong Kong and Singapore remain the favored locales and have captured a significant share of India-related arbitration cases.