Hong Kong: the departure of major law firms from the legal hub remains rare
Four-partner office is to be wound down; firm pledges continued investment in other Asia markets
Orrick is to close its four-partner Hong Kong office after conceding defeat on its strategy of growing a technology and innovation practice in the city.
In a statement the firm said it would wind down its operations by 31 August, shortly after its office lease expires, but would continue "investing in other markets in China and Asia in a manner that more directly advances our strategy”.
The firm said it had been seeking to rebuild in Hong Kong after the departure of a nine-partner capital markets team for Morgan Lewis & Bockius in 2017 with an emphasis on practices that “connected up with our global sector focus, particularly tech and innovation”.
“While our practices in Beijing, Shanghai and Taipei have thrived, we unfortunately have not been able to grow our team in Hong Kong in a way that aligns with our strategy globally and creates opportunities for cross-office collaboration,” it said.
The firm said the Hong Kong team comprised four partners and seven other lawyers and trainees and thanked them for "their excellent service to our clients and our firm".
According to its webiste, its Hong Kong partner comprise: David Halperin, senior partner, M&A and private equity, China, disputes partner Erica Chong, and M&A, private equity and funds partners Sook Young Yeu and Scott Peterman. Peterman joined the firm in 2017 from Jones Day as part of its rebuilding plans.
The firm said it had postponed the closure for several months due to Covid-19 but it needed to start winding it down as the office lease expired in June.
“We will secure temporary space to support our team and our clients with a longer transition,” it added.
Hong Kong has experienced months of upheaval, first due to the anti-government protest and then, this year, by the spread of coronavirus, leading to predictions of a dampened recruitment market.
However, the departure of Am Law 100 firms from the city remains rare - other notable departures over the last five years having included those of Cadwalader in 2017 and Fried Frank in 2016.
In December, Steptoe announced the opening of an office in Hong Kong with the hire of a partner and counsel from Clifford Chance.
Meanwhile, earlier this month Orrick announced the hiring of regulatory and fintech lawyer Marco Boldini as head of its Italian financial services regulatory practice while in February it boosted its London cybersecurity capability with the hire of Keily Blair and James Lloyd. All three joined as partners from PricewaterhouseCoopers.
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