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Asia round-up: DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Stephenson Harwood move to bolster regional networks

Despite the bearish mood that last year gripped many international law firms regarding Asia, and sustained tremors this year running through emerging market securities, a host of major advisers have kicked off 2014 with significant investments in the region, including DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Stephenson Harwood.

DLA Piper has hired O’Melveny & Myers partner Mark Fairbairn to head its restructuring group in Asia. Fairbairn was based in O’Melveny’s Hong Kong arm, having joined in 2008 following a five-year tenure at White & Case.His focus is on distressed and alternative investments, financial restructurings and insolvency. Counsel Ashley Bell also joins the Anglo-American giant’s restructuring group from O’Melveny. This is the third recent hire that DLA Piper has made from O’Melveny, as corporate partner Timothy Tan joined the firm’s Bangkok office last month.

Hogan Lovells, meanwhile, has scored a high-profile recruit with the appointment of Herbert Smith Freehills’ head of litigation in south-east Asia, Maurice Burke. Burke, who is set to join Hogan Lovells in May, has extensive experience on a range of commercial litigation, contentious regulatory and investigation matters throughout Asia. He will work alongside Singapore-based international arbitration partners Jonathan Leach and Paul Teo, a team that is rated in the top-tier of the recently released edition of The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2014.

Commenting on Burke’s arrival, Stephen Immelt and Michael Davison, global co-heads of Hogan Lovells’ litigation, arbitration and employment practice, said: ‘Singapore has established itself as a hub for resolving disputes in south-east Asia. As one of the leading practitioners in the region, Maurice will further enhance our top-tier offering to clients across south-east Asia.’

Elsewhere, Jones Day has announced that David Carden, the US’s first ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will re-join the firm as partner-in-charge of Asia. He was a partner based in New York and co-head of Jones Day’s securities litigation and SEC enforcement practice before his ambassadorship in March 2011.

Finally, top-50 UK practice Stephenson Harwood has hired DLA Piper’s Seoul office head Michael Kim as a partner in the marine and international trade practice to aid the firm’s launch in the much-touted economy. Kim will be based in the firm’s London office initially but with a planned opening in South Korea soon, Kim will be the managing partner of the new office.

He is experienced in ship finance and litigation, as well as arbitration matters. Both Kim and the firm share some clients including Export-Import Bank of Korea, STX Corporation, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Merchant Marine.

‘As the world’s twelfth-largest economy and one of the largest in Asia, Korea is a key market for Stephenson Harwood. Michael’s appointment further strengthens our Korea practice and provides us with the opportunity to apply for a licence for an office in Korea, and in doing so, extends our Asia network,’ said Sharon White, chief executive of Stephenson Harwood.

Whatever the doubts about Asia’s medium-term prospects, it is clear that the queue of ambitious law firms looking to forge potent practices in Asia shows no sign of shortening during 2014.