As Europe shows little sign of clawing its way out of the economic doldrums high growth markets continue to dominate the agenda with the announcement that firms including Linklaters, Baker & McKenzie, Simmons & Simmons and Clyde & Co are to launch new offices in the Asia Pacific region.
Over the past week Simmons announced that it is opening its fifth Asian office in Singapore, while Clyde & Co totted up its eighth presence in the region by securing a licence in Beijing. Both Linklaters and Baker & McKenzie won approval to launch in Seoul, with the latter’s claim to ‘unrivalled breadth’ in the Asia Pacific region borne out by its now 15 offices.
Simmons’ Singapore office – which comes after Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo – will be staffed by four partners, including project development and finance partner Dan Marjanovic, who joins from Norton Rose in Sydney. Commercial, regulatory and IP partner Alexander Shepherd will relocate from Dubai, international investment partner Jason Valoti from Hong Kong and project partner Peter Wright from London.
Clyde & Co, meanwhile, joins a growing list of firms to expand their presence in China, which dominated the Asia Pacific for M&A in 2012. The top 20 UK firm, which already has an 11-partner office in Hong Kong and a five-partner office in Shanghai, has followed in the recent footsteps of Berwin Leighton Paisner and Stephenson Harwood by opening in Beijing.
Corporate partner Lynia Lau will head the Beijing office. She said: ‘As the need for Chinese companies to secure supplies of commodities continues, we will be looking to make further connections between our international network in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Australia and clients who we know have an active interest in these resource rich geographies.’
Elsewhere the recent liberalisation of the legal market in South Korea has seen international firms firmly set their sights on Seoul, where Baker & McKenzie’s transactional partner Nam Hung Paik will be heading up its latest offering in the region. Linklaters’ Korea practice meanwhile is led by New York-qualified corporate partner Hyung Jung Ahn.
While only recently securing a foothold on the ground both firms are keen to emphasise their longevity in advising Korean clients across a range of practice areas. Eduardo Leite, chairman of Baker & McKenzie’s executive committee said: ‘We have worked with Korean clients for many years as they have looked for new opportunities and expanded across the globe. We look forward to being able to service them through our base in Seoul.’
Linklaters becomes the fourth UK firm to launch in Seoul after Herbert Smith Freehills’ opening in March, following Clifford Chance and DLA Piper’s entry into the market. With South Korea now the fourth largest economy in Asia and the 12th biggest in the world, the opening up of the market looks set to attract even more international firms.