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Stephenson Harwood scales back on Asia offering with Guangzhou office closure as Hogan Lovells makes another hire

UK firm Stephenson Harwood has closed its office in Guangzhou as the firm reviews its strategy in China, while Hogan Lovells has continued to bolster its Asia offering with another lateral hire, as Paul Hastings’ Tokyo project finance head Joe Kim joining the firm.

London-based Stephenson Harwood, which posted a respectable 8% rise in revenues to £121m alongside a 17% rise in profit per equity partner to £532,000 for the 2013/14 financial year, is understood to have shut its operations in Guangzhou as it considers potential tie-ups with local firms in the region.

Led by corporate partner Hilda Chui, the office offered services to existing and potential international investors, as well as other companies and individuals doing business or who plan to do business in Guangdong Province.

On the closure, chief executive Sharon White said in a statement: ‘In 1994, Stephenson Harwood became one of the pioneering international law firms to set up in Guangzhou. Since then, the legal landscape in China has changed considerably and we have decided to cease operating in Guangzhou.

‘Notwithstanding the cessation of our practice in Guangzhou, we will continue to maintain strong ties with the city. Our former colleagues are in the process of setting up an independent PRC law firm. We expect to maintain a close working relationship with this firm, when established.’

Stephenson Harwood recently opened an office in Seoul and earlier this year received formal approval to work with Singapore firm Virtus Law.

Others seeking to boost their Asia presence include Hogan Lovells, which has announced the hire of Paul Hastings project finance head Joseph Kim to its Tokyo finance practice. Joining the firm today [16 September], Kim will work as a partner in the infrastructure, energy resources and projects (IERP) team. According to the firm, Kim has ‘strong contacts’ with global clients including Standard Chartered Bank, Marubeni, K-Exim and K-Sure, and he will ‘strengthen [the firm’s] Japan and Korea outbound investment and financing offering as well as promote [its] global capabilities for projects involving Japanese and Korean cross-border investment projects’.

His hire follows that of Kirkland & Ellis corporate partner Steven Tran to Hogan’s Hong Kong corporate practice. As revealed by Legal Business, the firm last week also saw the departure of its business restructuring and insolvency practice head, Neil McDonald, who joined Kirkland & Ellis around the same time.

On Kim’s arrival, global finance head Sharon Lewis, said: ‘Joe’s expertise is highly sought after in the Asia market – Japanese and Korea based financing is playing an increasingly important role in global infrastructure transactions and his presence on the ground in Tokyo will be a great asset in furthering the reach of our IERP practice globally’.