Legal Business Blogs

Looking east: Linklaters gets long-awaited Shanghai approval as CMS launches Hong Kong association

Linklaters and CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang have shown Asia is still high on the agenda of global law firms after each made moves to expand their presence in the region.

The Magic Circle firm announced today (21 May) its lawyers will be able to practise local law in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ) through a joint operations agreement with local firm Zhao Sheng. FTZ rules allow international players to tie-up with domestic firms and practise local law.

The announcement has been on the cards for some time after the two firms formed a ‘best friends’ alliance in April last year, which saw three partners and a team of lawyers move from Linklaters to Zhao Sheng.

‘Market shifts indicate that outbound work and high-end domestic transactions will become ever more important for our business,’ said Linklaters head of China William Liu. ‘The joint operations will help us to protect our competitive advantage both in China and globally.’

Other firms to have entered the FTZ include Hogan Lovells, through its association with Fidelity Law in October 2016 and Baker McKenzie, which a year earlier became the first international firm to launch a joint office in the area with Beijing firm FenXun Partners. Holman Fenwick Willan, meanwhile, formalised a local partnership with Wintell & Co in April 2016.

The move follows CMS announcing last Friday (18 May) it had formed an alliance with Hong Kong firm Shirley Lau & Co, again with a view to practice local law.

CMS partner Tim Elliott will move across to the newly established firm to become its office managing director alongside three other lawyers. The firm was launched by former Troutman Sanders M&A veteran partner Shirley Lau, who brought a six-strong corporate and litigation team with him from the US firm’s local operations.

CMS Hong Kong managing partner Nicolas Wiegand said: ‘Since our launch in 2016, we have been steadily growing the team and developing our practice in a number of strategic areas including dispute resolution, particularly international arbitration, banking and finance, as well as energy.’

Hong Kong made legal headlines recently as the location of Slaughter and May’s third ever lateral hire. In April, the Magic Circle firm recruited former Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission director of enforcement Wynne Mok to its investigations and litigation team.