YangTze Law has become the first wholly Chinese-owned law firm to launch in London, targeting Chinese corporates investing in Europe as China’s outbound direct investment overtook investment into the country for the first time earlier this year.
The alternative business structure (ABS) will service clients from the YangTzejiang Legal Network, a group of 40 law firms with 3,000 lawyers across China, in the UK. It received regulatory approval from the Solicitors Regulation Authority in late April and will be run by Malcolm Dickinson, managing partner at Michelmores.
Dickinson, who has been appointed chief executive, will continue in his role at Michelmores, which will provide back-office support and regulatory services, and sees YangTze Law as a unique opportunity for the Exeter-based firm to ‘access the market in a different way’.
YangTze Law, which is based at 25 Southampton Buildings, has been set up specifically to serve the needs of a new generation of mainland Chinese corporates which are being backed by a new $40bn fund called Silk Road set up by China Investment Corporation to support overseas expansion of Chinese companies.
The firm will provide English law advice and is the first overseas office of the YangTzejiang Legal Network since it was set up by Steve Ng in 1994. Ng, who launched YangTze Law with one of the network’s largest Chinese firms, Jun Yan Law Firm in Shenzhen, said: ‘YangTze Law is a Chinese firm for Chinese clients. It has the support of our legal network and its client base. We see our target market as Chinese businesses who have no representation abroad. We are not here to step on anyone’s toes but to expand Chinese participation in the UK market.’
‘There are an increasing number of Chinese firms looking to invest and do business in or through the UK but for whom cultural and legal differences can be a real barrier. YangTze Law will fulfil a need that has not previously been met by the UK legal market and, over the near to long term, will help to unlock the door for a new group of Chinese investors.’
Ng is also the majority shareholder in the venture having invested $250,000 with Winston Gao, a senior partner at Jun Yan, the other shareholder. Ng and YangTze Law are currently working on plans to open offices in Hong Kong and New York within the next 12 months. Commenting on why the firm tied-up with Michelmores, Ng told Legal Business: ‘Malcom is my friend and we have trust so I feel comfortable to work with him. They offer excellent support to the launch of YangTze Law. This is the kind of friendship I would like to demonstrate to the local lawyers, I will be referring most of my cases out so I will be referring to lawyers who I trust. I wish to have more friendships in the local community.’
Stephen Denyer, the Law Society’s head of city and international, commented: ‘I am delighted that a new type of Chinese legal service provider is coming to London and doing so in collaboration with an English law firm. This underlines the important global role of London as a legal hub and the attractiveness of our jurisdiction.’