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International round-up: HFW opens in Abu Dhabi as Morgan Lewis hires new Tokyo head

HFW has added a fifth office in the Middle East, launching in Abu Dhabi after a double-partner hire from US firm Reed Smith.

Finance and corporate partners Vince Gordon and Tania de Swart have made the switch, with Gordon previously acting as Reed Smith’s managing partner for the Middle East.

Gordon has over 13 years’ experience in the region and specialises in debt capital markets, M&A, joint ventures and project finance among other areas. De Swart also focuses on corporate and commercial work, and has clients from a broad range of sectors such as defence, aviation, construction, hospitality and education.

HFW senior partner Richard Crump commented: ‘The Middle East is critically important to all of our industry groups and is also establishing itself as a key hub for international dispute resolution. It is one of the fastest-growing parts of our business globally.’

The new Abu Dhabi outpost brings HFW’s Middle East lawyer headcount to 50, including 19 partners. It also brings the firm’s overall international office count to 20.

Tamara Box, Reed Smith managing partner, told Legal Business that the firm was very much ‘still on point’ with its Middle East strategy, and pointed to the hire of former Pinsent Masons regional head Sachin Kerur in July.

She added: ‘We have set out to relaunch what we were doing in the Middle East and everything we have done so far has been part of that strategy. We think that the region is a much bigger play for us going forward.’

Elsewhere, Morgan Lewis & Bockius has also made a double partner hire in Asia, bringing in corporate partners Motonori ‘Moto’ Araki and Mitsuyoshi ‘Mitsu’ Saito to its Tokyo office.

Both partners are transferring from Morrison & Foerster, with Araki being appointed managing partner of the Tokyo hub.

It is a happy return for Araki, who was previously a partner at Morgan Lewis until 2007. His practice primarily involves M&A, IP and international dispute resolution.

Saito has a similar mix of specialisms, offering corporate, dispute resolution and employment advice to both Japanese and non-Japanese clients. In terms of industry sectors, Saito’s clients typically operate in electronics, IT, chemistry, manufacturing and pharmaceuticals.

Steve Browne, Morgan Lewis’ global corporate head, commented: ‘Our clients require the services of lawyers who are skilled in handling both local and global matters, and the arrival of Moto and Mitsu perfectly fills those needs.’

Withers has also announced a series of hires both in Tokyo and Hong Kong. A total of six partners have joined the firm, with funds partners Koji Yamamoto and Omori Yoshiyuki joining Withers’ Tokyo base from Deloitte. Junko Shiokawa, another funds partner who is joining from offshore firm Harneys, will split her time between Tokyo and Hong Kong.

A real estate team led by partners Gerald Fujii, Naoki Ueyama and Steven Wheeler has also joined, with Fuji arriving from White & Case’s Tokyo office. Ueyama and Wheeler respectively arrive from local Japanese firms Masuda & Partners and Kaynex.