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Asia Pacific: Slaughters makes first foray into lateral market to launch US securities practice in Hong Kong

Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May has taken the unprecedented step of making a lateral hire, recruiting US securities partner John Moore from US firm Morrison & Foerster into its Hong Kong office.

Moore has been brought in to provide US securities law coverage to the Hong Kong practice and comes after much speculation that the firm was looking to add US capability to the region. Previously, the firm had partnered with a number of US outfits to provide US counsel and this move brings the firm into line with the rest of its Magic Circle rivals, who already have US-qualified lawyers in Hong Kong.

A highly experienced practitioner, Moore is the former head of the US capital markets team for Herbert Smith. He was also at Sullivan & Cromwell and was in-house at Goldman Sachs, where he was executive director and senior counsel. He commented: ‘My joining Slaughter and May in Hong Kong will enable the firm to provide integrated Hong Kong and US law capability for capital markets transactions in Hong Kong. I have known Slaughter and May for some 15 years, having first worked with them back in 1999 on the Tracker Fund IPO when I was at Goldman Sachs. Since then, we have worked together on several client matters, so I know the team well and have the highest regard for them’

The firm has also made up two associates to partner in the Hong Kong office, including corporate and securities specialist Clara Choi and its first competition partner in the region, Natalie Yeung. With the addition of these three partners, Slaughters now has 12 partners in Hong Kong.

Paul Olney, practice partner of the firm, told Legal Business: ‘Having launched there in 1974, we have a long-term commitment to Hong Kong. The market has changed a lot and we’ve been looking at this for a long time. With firms like Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell moving into Hong Kong law and Paul Weiss already there, there haven’t really been any other obvious firms for us to team up with.’

Olney dismissed any suggestion that this lateral move would herald a material change to the firm’s traditional organic growth strategy but added: ‘You won’t see teams of hires but we do need to build [the firm’s Asia practice] out.’ He described Moore as ‘a fantastic operator’ who will ‘fit right in’.

As regards the possibility of adding US law capability to its London offering, Olney was clear: ‘We have absolutely no plans to build a US team in London,’ he said. ‘Hong Kong is a very particular market where you really do have to have the Hong Kong and US law element under one roof.’