Legal Business

Asia: Latham hires V&E ex China co-head in HK; NRF hires DLA’s Singapore corporate head; Clayton Utz ends HK association


The past week has seen global top three firm Latham & Watkins hire Vinson & Elkins’ former China co-head David Blumental in Hong Kong, as Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) takes on DLA Piper’s Singapore corporate head Sheela Moorthy and big six Australian firm Clayton Utz ends its association in Hong Kong with Haley & Co.

Blumental’s practice covers cross-border M&A, joint ventures, project development and financing, and private equity investments focusing on oil and gas, LNG, infrastructure and mining. He has worked in China, North and South America, Africa, Russia and the CIS, Southeast Asia and Australia.

The oil and gas partner relocated to Hong Kong after Vinson & Elkins closed its Shanghai office in August last year, as energy specialist Tju Liang Chua left the firm to join US rival Sidley Austin in Singapore.

‘As we continue to position ourselves as one of the leading global oil and gas firms David has a unique blend of Asian experience and knowledge that makes him an exciting and important addition to our existing Asian energy and natural resources team,’ said David Miles, chair of Lathams’ Asia practice and a partner in the firm’s Hong Kong office.

Elsewhere NRF, which last month had its Singapore qualifying foreign legal practice (QFLP) licence extended for another five years, has bulked up its presence in the region with the hire of Moorthy, who becomes the fourth partner exit from DLA’s Singapore office in two years.

Moorthy has over 20 years’ experience working on cross-border transactions in Singapore, Indonesia, India, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

QFLPs, which enable law firms to practice some Singapore law, are highly sought after and held by only nine international law firms in total, despite 23 applying in 2012.

‘Her dual qualification in England and Singapore is significant for the practice, and her experience in the energy, life sciences and technology sectors makes her a great fit for our team and our clients,’ said Jeff Smith, head of NRF’s Southeast Asia practice.

Meanwhile, Clayton Utz has called time on its association with Hong Kong firm Haley & Co after four years. Chief executive partner Darryl McDonough said the move reflected the evolution of Clayton Utz’s international strategy and its focus on being Australia’s top-tier independent law firm. This comment follows recent tie-ups between peer group firms such as Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Blake Dawson with global firms Herbert Smith, King & Wood (and subsequently SJ Berwin) and Ashurst respectively.

‘With the changes in the legal services market we have developed a clear strategic focus on being Australia’s pre-eminent top-tier independent law firm with deep relationships with a comprehensive network of “best in market” law firms in key international jurisdictions. The success of that clear strategic focus led us to a mutual agreement with Haley & Co to withdraw from our association,’ said McDonough.

Glenn Haley, the senior partner of Haley & Co, said that the end of the association will have no effect on the firm’s Hong Kong office. The association is due to end on June 30.

Legal Business

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.