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Revolving Doors: Linklaters hires former Herbert Smith Asia head as Clayton Utz and Norton Rose make key hires

Herbert Smith Freehills recent internal confidence that its run of post-merger exits had come to an end has been dashed after Friday (16 August) saw former Asia disputes head Gavin Lewis leave to join Linklaters.

A ‘solid and experienced litigator’, Lewis is ‘among the best in Hong Kong’ according to The Legal 500 and his departure is a blow to the firm in the wake of the exodus of other high profile litigators such as Ted Greeno to Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan earlier this year and Kevin Lloyd to Debevoise & Plimpton last year.

Lewis joined Herbert Smith in 1996 and after spending two years as managing director at UBS in Hong Kong, returned to the firm in 2008, becoming head of the firm’s first-tier Asia disputes practice in 2011.

His departure follows that of Hong Kong colleague and financial services regulatory partner Tim Mak, who left for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in April this year. Meanwhile, Lewis is Linklaters’ third raid on Herbert Smith in less than a year, after contentious financial regulation partners Martyn Hopper and Nikunj Kiri joined in September and January respectively.

A spokesman for Herbert Smith said: ‘We’re grateful for Gavin’s contribution and wish him all the best for the future.’

The fallout of largely legacy Herbert Smith partners have been attributed to a number of factors, all related to its merger with Australia’s Freehills, including the resistance of many of Herbert Smith’s more conservative partners to operating as a global merit driven business.

Elsewhere, the ink had only just dried on SJ Berwin’s market changing tie-up with Asia-Pacific firm King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) when Clayton Utz last week announced the hire of KWM Australia real estate partner Andrew Norman.

Norman had been with legacy Mallesons for 22 years and has been involved in projects including the leasing and development of National Australia Bank’s Commercial office headquarters in Docklands, Melbourne, and the sale of GE Real Estate’s Australian property portfolio to Mirvac, valued at over Aus$1.4bn.

Clayton Utz, one of the big six Australian firms which has made clear its strategy to remain independent, is looking to boost its property practice as the country suffers from a dip in transactional activity.

A spokesperson for the firm told Legal Business: ‘It’s a strategic lateral hire in an area where we’re anticipating strong future growth.’

Meanwhile, Norton Rose Fulbright has boosted its dispute resolution practice with the hire of Elisabeth Bremner from DLA Piper in London.

Bremner’s broad ranging practice includes investigating allegations of insider dealing, market abuse and trader mis-marking in the investment banking and hedge fund sectors.

‘Our litigation team continues to grow with the appointment of Elisabeth and recent hires including Kirsty Hick. In addition, through our recent combination we have expanded our global offering to include over 1000 dispute resolution lawyers,’ said Deirdre Walker, head of dispute resolution and litigation for Europe, Middle East and Asia.