Cleary launches Hong Kong law practice with Norton Rose hire

Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton is set to launch a Hong Kong law practice after poaching Norton Rose’s China corporate finance head.

Freeman Chan, a corporate finance partner in Norton Rose’s Hong Kong office, will join Cleary as a partner at the beginning of next year. Chan will work with the firm’s existing Asia partners to launch a Hong Kong law practice in early 2011, once the firm has completed the necessary regulatory steps.

The new practice will focus, initially at least, on Hong Kong listed IPOs and other capital markets transactions, as well as private equity and M&A deals.

Cleary has more than 40 lawyers spread between Beijing and Hong Kong, 17 of whom will be Hong Kong qualified when the new practice is launched, according to the firm.

“Adding Hong Kong law capability to our existing, successful Asia practice is a natural and important extension of our firm’s global business model,” said Cleary managing partner Mark Walker.

The move follows that of Davis Polk & Wardwell, which launched a domestic law practice in Hong Kong in August after hiring Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s Beijing managing partner (16 August 2010).

Cleary has been in Hong Kong since 1980, and opened an office in Beijing in 2006.