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November 18, 2010 10:18 AM

Nixon Peabody Enters Hong Kong Market Through Local Alliance

Posted by Anthony Lin

Correction, 11/18/10, 11:20 a.m. - Our original post misidentified Nixon Peabody managing partner Richard Langan as Robert Langan. We regret the error.

Nixon Peabody is trying a new approach in China. The firm, which launched a Shanghai office in 2008, is now casting its eye on Hong Kong, where it is establishing an office through an alliance with local firm Cheng Wong Lam & Partners. The affiliation will be known as Nixon Peabody in association with Cheng Wong Lam & Partners, the firm announced on Wednesday.

International firms have focused more attention on Hong Kong in the past year owing to the boom in capital markets work there. Despite the rise of Shanghai, Hong Kong has retained its crown as Asia's international financial capital because it has a separate British-influenced legal system, fully convertible currency, and large pool of experienced, English-speaking workers. Several prominent American firms, including Davis Polk & Wardwell, Shearman & Sterling, and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy launched Hong Kong law practices in the past year, having previously practiced U.S. law in Hong Kong.

Cheng Wong Lam has around 20 lawyers in Hong Kong. Nixon Peabody China practice head David Cheng, who presently divides his time between San Francisco and Shanghai, will relocate his family to Hong Kong and divide his time between that office and Shanghai. Nixon Peabody has one other partner in the region, Yanwen Le in Shanghai.

Though such associations have in the past been preludes to full-fledged mergers, Nixon Peabody, in a statement announcing the affiliation, said the deal was non-exclusive and the two firms would remain independent.

Nixon Peabody has encountered some turbulence in its China expansion. At the beginning of 2009, it recruited former Heller Ehrman partner Henry Liu as China chairman, only to see Liu depart to DLA Piper barely a year later. But managing partner Richard Langan said his firm is committed to the China market in announcing the new alliance.

"By 2020, China will be the largest single market for legal services worldwide. Our clients are there and we need to be there," Langan said.

 

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