Akin Gump ditches Brussels office in favour of Beijing outpost

In an overhaul of its international strategy, US firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld has pulled out of Brussels and has opened its first mainland China office in Beijing.

The moves are the result of a two-year strategic review. Chairman Bruce McLean said: “We decided our international offices needed to reflect our core practice areas of energy, political lobbying and hedge funds.”

It is unclear whether Brussels was profitable as the firm does not account for profit on an office-by-office basis. Firmwide finances have been stagnant, though, with 2005’s revenue rising by just $6m (£3.1m).

McLean said: “The Brussels office was a drain on resources in that it was a deflection of management attention. We thought that, if it wasn’t successful, we should just close.”

Akin Gump launched its Brussels office (its first overseas presence) in 1989. Ten years ago the office had 30 lawyers, but by October 2006 it had just seven, working on EU law and policy, international law and transactions.

The Beijing office will house three partners and an associate and will be headed by public law partner Eliot Cutler. It will concentrate on corporate work for foreign and local clients.

Akin Gump has strong relationships with Chinese clients, including the Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), for which it lobbied when CNOOC made its controversial $18bn (£9.3bn) bid for Unocal in 2005.

In addition to Beijing Akin Gump has international offices in Dubai, London, Moscow and Taipei.