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London-based law firm Herbert Smith Freehills in China tie-up

London practice is sixth international group to be licensed in Shanghai initiative

London-based law firm Herbert Smith Freehills will affiliate its Chinese business with a local company in a new test for integrating foreign legal services with domestic law practice in China. The tie-up comes after nearly a decade of experimentation by foreign groups seeking to boost their presence in China by partnering local companies. Several affiliations, such as that of China’s King & Wood and Australia’s Mallesons, or global firm Dentons and China’s Dacheng, have formed some of the world’s largest practices but have yielded mixed results. Chinese regulation does not allow full integration of foreign and domestic legal teams. Foreigners are barred from practising Chinese law, as are Chinese nationals who work for foreign law firms.  Instead, some foreign companies, such as King & Wood Mallesons, have established so-called Swiss verein structures, where firms combine under a single brand but maintain separate finances. Others, such as HSF and Ashurst, have received formal licences to set up joint operations under a pilot programme in Shanghai. HSF will become the sixth global law firm to gain approval from Shanghai’s Bureau of Justice to integrate with a Chinese practice, allowing it and its Chinese partner, Kewei, to rebrand the China business as Herbert Smith Freehills Kewei.

The two firms will be able to work closely on individual deals and share the fees from such projects. HSF said the integration with Kewei would focus on cross-border mergers and acquisitions, banking and finance and financial services regulation. Kewei, which has 20 partners and lawyers, was launched in 1995 in Shanghai. HSF, which posted profits of £306m for the year ending in April, has more than 300 lawyers in the region. “When clients come to see us, we [HSF and Kewei] are now under one umbrella and we are both responsible for them,” said May Tai, HSF’s Greater China managing partner, noting that both firms’ reputations will now be formally linked. Such joint operations are still in a pilot phase and do not have full recognition as legal entities. HSF follows firms such as Baker McKenzie, Linklaters and Hogan Lovells to link up with Chinese practices under the Shanghai initiative. King & Wood and Mallesons in 2011 became the first test in which a Chinese firm merged with a large western one. In 2015, Dentons merged with Dacheng, one of China’s biggest practices, to form what was then the largest global law firm by attorney headcount.

Firms are fighting for a share of China’s cross-border legal work, which has grown rapidly over the past decade as Chinese companies invest more overseas. But integration has had a mixed record as global groups, often drawing on more than a century of history, mix with Chinese practices with just a few decades of experience, according to several lawyers with experience in such tie-ups. People close to the partnerships said that integration in overlapping jurisdictions often led to clashes, with firms continuing to compete internally despite attempts to integrate practice. “In some cases, the foreign firm ends up attracting lots of business for the Chinese firm but not the other way around,” said one Beijing-based lawyer familiar with the partnerships.

Koen De Puydt

News Article by Leaders in Law Member – Koen De Puydt

Professional Liability of Intellectual professions in the Construction Sector 

Following the ten-year liability insurance for real estate projects for architects, engineering firms and contractors, which was made mandatory by the “Peeters-Borsus Law” since 1 July 2018, another insurance obligation has been introduced within the construction sector by the “Peeters-Ducarme Law” effective 1 July 2019. 

The title of this law is self-explanatory. It introduces “a professional liability insurance for architects, surveyor experts, safety and health coordinators and other service providers in the construction sector relating to construction works and amends various legal provisions regarding civil liability insurance in the construction sector”, as mentioned earlier also called the Peeters-Ducarme Law. 

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This title shows that this law has in principle a larger scope than the Peeters-Borsus Law. Where the latter applies primarily to contractors and architects in the context of housing projects and for works that require the intervention of an architect, the Peeters-Ducarme Law introduces a professional liability insurance for all intellectual professions within the construction sector, with regard to all construction work. 

Consequently, the Peeters-Ducarme Law does not apply to contractors, but it applies to all kind of real estate work (and therefore not only with regard to housing projects). Thus, as a result of the execution of all real estate works, the principal will enjoy this protection regardless of the final destination of the property or the possible intervention of an architect. 

Compulsory insurance coverage cannot be lower, per claim, than:

  • € 1,500,000 for damage resulting from physical injuries;
  • € 500,000 for the total material and immaterial damage;
  • € 10,000 for the objects entrusted to the insured by the principal.

The law also provides for a posterior coverage on the basis of which the liability for claims must be covered if the claim is filed within three years after the cessation of the activities of the insured service provider . 

Although it could be expected that the Peeters-Ducarme Law has a larger scope than the Peeters-Borsus Law, we must conclude that it is largely eroded by the exceptions that are provided for in respect of the damage that the insurance must cover. 

For example, Article 5 of the Peeters-Ducarme Law states that damages are not covered if it is the consequence of a failure to comply with one or more contractual obligations or if damages resulting from environmental degradation, claims relating to an inadequate budget, or disputes in relation to fees and expenses.

These exceptions erode the potentially extensive coverage provided by the Peeters-Ducarme Law significantly and therefore the latter offers less protection than might be expected at first sight. 

The Peeters-Ducarme law has been published yesterday (26 June 2019) in the Belgian Official Gazette and will enter into force on 1 July 2019. 

Peeters Law (to be soon Seeds of Law) will be happy to provide you with the necessary advice or assistance in this matter. Please contact us via info@seeds.law or by telephone on +32 (0)2 747 40 07.

Koen De Puydt – Toon Delie

Real Estate and Construction Law    Professional Liability     Professional Liability insurance     Intellectual professions     construction sector     architect surveyor expert    safety and health coordinator

London City

Another $10m scalp for Kirkland as Freshfields star Maguire quits

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Adrian Maguire is understood to be joining his former boss David Higgins at Kirkland & Ellis, over a year after the US firm made a concerted push to expand its corporate credentials in the City.