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July 6, 2010 6:00 AM

Latham Launches Asia Litigation Practice with Jones Day Hire

Posted by Ed Shanahan

By Anthony Lin

Latham & Watkins has launched an Asia litigation practice with a lateral hire from Jones Day's Hong Kong office, the firm told The Am Law Daily on Monday.

Simon Powell, a Hong Kong-qualified lawyer, has long been regarded as one of the region's top insolvency and litigation specialists. He also advises financial institutions and companies in the region on securities and competition regulation, as well as commercial litigation.

Prior to joining Latham's Hong Kong office last week, Powell had been acting as special counsel on Asia litigation for the Lehman Brothers estate in the Lehman bankruptcy.

The hire makes Latham the latest international firm to bolster its litigation capabilities in Asia, seen in the past as fertile ground only for corporate practices. Though transactional work remains the predominant focus of most global firms in the region, the sharp downturn in 2008 and early 2009 led many to seek greater balance in their Asia practices. Several firms, including Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Linklaters, relocated litigators to Hong Kong, the region's financial capital, during that period.

Latham looked to Asia following the successful expansion of its European litigation practice over the past decade, according to London-based partner and vice-chair of global litigation John Hull. Europe now accounts for 20 percent of the firm's litigation revenue, Hull says, noting that Asia holds similar potential in the "pent-up demand" for litigation advice among the firm's clients. "It was obviously the logical next step for us," says Hull.

Latham plans to take a two-pronged approach to litigation in Asia, seeking out both high-end local representations as well as "export" work, says Hull, in which the firm represents an Asian client in U.S. litigation. Such work has grown in importance for American firms as more and more Asian companies have become embroiled in U.S. lawsuits.

Powell says a stronger regulatory environment in Asia--Hong Kong has stepped up securities enforcement in recent years and is due to unveil a new antitrust law--also will lead to increased demand for litigation advice. He expects to work closely with Michael Liu, a top capital markets lawyer who joined Latham from Allen & Overy last year and was recently made the firm's Hong Kong managing partner.

Liu agrees companies involved in major transactions in Asia face increased regulatory scrutiny than in the past. "We will see more independent law firm investigations," says Liu. "I think this area will be very, very big."

Latham is one of the world's largest law firms with almost 2,000 lawyers. The firm has greatly expanded its presence in Asia over the past ten years, now boasting offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore,
and Tokyo.

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