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‘A somewhat unique position’: Quinn Emanuel opens second mainland China office in Beijing

Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan has announced the launch of a new office in Beijing, its second in mainland China following its 2016 opening in Shanghai.

The new branch will be headed by Xiao Liu, head of Quinn’s China practice. Haiyan Tang will remain as head of the Shanghai office, and will also move into a co-leading role in the China practice alongside Liu. The firm will continue to focus on investigations, litigation, and arbitration, for both China-based clients and multinational clients doing business in China.

Speaking to Legal Business, Liu stressed that the move had been part of the firm’s strategy for a long time. ‘It has been long planned. We’ve been leveraging our global resources in dispute resolution and our on-the-ground presence in Shanghai for quite a few years. We had quite a few clients headquartered in Beijing, so even before we had the office there the team had been travelling to Beijing and spending a significant amount of time there anyway.’

He added: ‘Once we had the first office in Shanghai, we needed to wait for at least three years before even applying to have a second office in mainland China. Then there was the delay caused by the Covid pandemic. So that’s why we didn’t open the office in Beijing earlier. It’s not any sudden shift in focus or strategy.’

While Liu was keen to highlight that the move was not in any way a response to any changes in the economic climate, he did note that Quinn’s nature as a disputes-only firm left it well placed to succeed.

‘We are in a somewhat unique position in the market’, he said. ‘Unlike many other firms, which started their practice in China with transactional work, we are situated completely differently. We are affected by very different factors of the market. We’re not really subject to the normal economic cycles that would affect, for example, the interest of foreign capital in investing in China.’

Quinn’s existing practice sees it ranked in tier 5 for litigation: foreign firms in the Legal 500. Herbert Smith Freehills sits alone in the top tier, while most others on the list are full-service firms.

Liu argued that a maturing market provides more opportunities for disputes-only firms. ‘We see that Chinese companies are growing much more sophisticated day by day. Previously, there may have been a ‘one-firm-fits-all’ approach. But now, the market is much more developed than that. We’ve had occasions where the client has their own trusted corporate counsel working on every deal they have. But, where they have their most complex litigation, in the US or elsewhere, they look for the best law firms to work on just that. That builds the market for us.’