“As one door closes, another one opens,” may not be the most fitting idiom for this situation but as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe closed the door on Hong Kong, a door opened for K&L Gates to snag a high-calibre private equity team. Scott Peterman, Sook Young Yeu and William Ho came on board the US-headquartered global firm as partners and brought a pre-packed practice with them. Team hires are always a boon for firms to make: by definition, the team should already be working together harmoniously as it has done previously, client relationships are easier to preserve, associates are more likely to join in numbers meaning further hiring (time consuming in a process of identifying, interviewing, making offers to and waiting for notice periods to expire for multiple candidates) is not an issue, and recruitment fees may well be capped. Ordinarily some creative new internal office arrangements would have been required in the short term, but the return to more frequent working-from-home arrangements following a new spike in Covid-19 cases make that less of an immediate concern, albeit in the least pleasant of circumstances.
Another team move saw Stephenson Harwood’s regional realignment continue with the US-focused pair of trusts and estates experts Erik Wallace and Lawrence Ho move (again, with juniors) to the perhaps more obvious home of US West Coast-founded Loeb & Loeb. Another plug-and-play move that should work out for all sides.
Another firm showing ambition with a number of partner hires in a short space of time was Jingtian & Gongcheng, hiring four partners from four different firms in Beijing and Shanghai.
In Beijing, Li Li brought a blockchain practice from Dentons and Nan Tiejian bolstered capital markets in a move from King & Wood Mallesons. In Shanghai, Tang Xue brought a private equity practice having joined from Fangda and Zou Ye added expertise in asset management having left Llinks Law Office.
Four partners, two offices, four disparate practices. This kind of hiring activity is bold and ambitious, especially in such a depressed market where one would expect most hires to be in restructuring and insolvency, dispute resolution and, with the increasingly fractious trade war between the USA and China continuing to grab headlines, sanctions and export controls. As PRC firms become more aggressive in making lateral hires to protect and expand market share, they are also looking more long-term in strategy if these hires are to be a marker.
With the trade war continuing, and Hong Kong’s future remaining uncertain, inbound investment in the region is widely expected to diversify. While ongoing travel restrictions have stilted activity in investment, once the skies clear it will be interesting to see which jurisdictions turn out to be the most attractive. Vietnam and Taiwan are generally highlighted as ripe for investment in infrastructure and technology, while Taiwanese semiconductor giant TSMC (briefly) became the world’s tenth most valuable company, buoyed by Apple’s decision to take its business there in preference to Intel. Singapore is oft touted as the preferred alternative to Hong Kong as he most obvious destination for unsettled expat lawyers for well-documented reasons but, as the sands shift in the region, others may well begin to present themselves as appealing for the more adventurous and open-minded.