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Breaking China – Bird & Bird signs co-operation agreement with local leader AllBright

It has achieved long-term revenue growth through sustained international expansion – particularly in Asia in recent years – but Bird & Bird has made what it will consider a significant step forward for its ambitions in the region – a non-exclusive co-operation agreement with leading Chinese firm AllBright Law Offices.

The deal, which will see both firms work together on a preferred supplier arrangement, will enable Bird & Bird to build deeper relationships with Chinese clients. As part of the agreement, Allbright Law Offices will gain a base in Europe, with the firm opening its own operation within Bird & Bird’s Fetter Lane headquarters, staffed in the medium term by a permanent representative.

Speaking to Legal Business, Bird & Bird chief executive David Kerr said the primary objective from AllBright’s perspective is to look after clients as they internationalise.

‘Everything they are doing in terms of setting up the rep office in London and working with us is designed to meet that requirement. We are maintaining our inbound to China operation. Of course we may co-operate in particular areas with Allbright on serving those client needs. Each firm has got some clear objectives.’

Justin Walkey, Bird & Bird’s Asia chair added: ‘We don’t have key performance indicators in terms of revenue targets. The objective here is to build deeper relationships with Chinese clients and the success or otherwise of our enterprise will be whether the Chinese clients want to buy those services. The focus is on China going global.’

According to Bird & Bird, the move to establish a co-operation agreement with AllBright is the latest chapter in the firm’s Asia-Pacific strategy, which has seen the firm launch in five cities including Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and more recently Sydney. The firm also has co-operation agreements in place with firms in Malaysia, South Korea and Indonesia.

AllBright has 17 offices in mainland Chinese cities, and has more than 1,800 lawyers globally. It is regarded as solid player in the PRC in most commercial practice areas, particularly in IP, a core focus for Bird & Bird. However, both parties confirmed the agreement does not affect Bird & Bird’s existing co-op with IP specialist Lawjay Partners in China, nor does it affect AllBright’s existing arrangement with Stevenson Wong in Hong Kong.

Earlier this year Bird & Bird recorded its 26th year of turnover growth, with global revenues for 2016/17 up 5% to €361m from €343.8m, translating to an 11% increase in sterling from £273.8m to £303.2m. In Asia Pacific, the firm has experienced an 18% increase in turnover over the last 18 months.

The technology-focused firm attributed the performance to what it described as double-digit growth in its key practice areas of corporate, IP and employment.

For more on Bird & Bird’s international strategy and David Kerr’s leadership, read ‘David made Goliath – Kerr on Bird & Bird’s re-invention as a leading global TMT shop’