China’s Yingke expands into Milan and Brussels

China’s largest law firm by lawyer headcount Yingke has confirmed plans to expand into Milan and Brussels via local associations.

Beijing-headquartered Yingke plans to launch in Milan and Brussels in April through establishing associations with local firms Mercanti Dorio e Associati and Oswell & Vahida respectively.

The Chinese firm has had a presence in Italy since March 2011, when it opened an office in Verona. Its Milan operation will be overseen by the firm’s Italian managing partner Roberto LuziCrivellini, who opened the firm’s office in Verona. Two Chinese lawyers and one partner will be based in the Milan office of new Italian ally Mercanti Dorio e Associati, which has 18 partners and 24 associates and consultants across Verona and Milan.

“Milan is the financial capital of Italy. A lot of foreign investors will set up a base in Milan for their Italian investment,” said Crivellini. “Milan is also where the Chinese business community is concentrated, so a presence there is a must.”

Since the establishment of the Verona office, Yingke has helped a number of Italian businesses expand into China. For example, the firm has advised leading Italian diamond tool manufacturer Dellas set up an entity in China and advised Italian wine producer Pasqua on a distribution agreement into China. It has also acted for Italian and Chinese clients on cross-jurisdiction litigation cases.

“Milan will host the World Expo in 2015, and we’re hoping that some of the interest from Chinese investors in Italy will come to fruition by then,” said Crivellini.

In Brussels, Yingke will enter into a co-operation arrangement with local boutique firm Oswell & Vahida. The Brussels-based firm, which was set up in 2006 by a team of lawyers from the Brussels office of Weil Gotshal & Manges. The six-lawyer firm, led by three partners, has a strong focus on EU antitrust and competition law in addition to regulatory, commercial and corporate offerings.

Oswell & Vahida founding partner Dennis Oswell will serve as the managing partner of Yingke’s Brussels operation.

“We’re very excited about this collaboration. Through linking up with this firm we wish to establish a bridge between China and Belgium as well as European business communities,” said Oswell & Vahida partner George Metaxas , who joined the firm in January 2008 from Hogan & Hartson’s Brussels office, where he was a partner.

Yingke, which has over 2,220 lawyers and 32 offices, is China’s largest law firm by lawyer number. In addition to its fast expansion in China, the firm has also been expanding internationally over the past few years.

Most recently, the firm has opened small representative offices in Mexico City, London (26 September 2011), Poland and Turkey (27 January 2012).

The firm now has a presence in Budapest, Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Mexico City, New York, São Paulo, Seoul, Singapore, Taiwan, Verona, and Warsaw. It is understood that there is no uniform model for the firm’s overseas operations, which are not always fully financially integrated. In general, the firm keeps a small base in each overseas location and services its clients through local joint ventures, associations or referrals.

Yingke’s 2012 turnover reached RMB450m (£48m), which means the firm’s average revenue per lawyer (RPL) was RMB202,000 (£21,500). This means although the firm has the largest number of lawyers in China, its RPL was still behind its larger domestic competitors such as Dacheng, DeHeng, Grandall and Jun He.