Following a partners meeting in Hong Kong earlier this month, Clifford Chance has decided on a change to its Asian strategy.
The firm is understood to view China as a key market, particularly in light of its recent accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A source said: "What's revised is the strategy. There's a significant re-emphasis on China." China joining the WTO will open a massive market for international law firms, which will need to have their strategies in place. The spokesperson added: "We'll gear up significantly over the next 12 months. We're sending two partners - Stephen Harder and Peiji Gao - out of Hong Kong to China." Relocating these partners to concentrate on exploiting opportunities in China is the initial phase of the firm's plan. Clifford Chance already has a strong presence in China. Thanks to its merger with Pünder Volhard Weber & Axster, the firm has been able to work around regulations prohibiting foreign firms from opening more than one office in the country. The firm has a Shanghai base under the Clifford Chance name and a Pünder office in Beijing. It also has a number of lawyers in its China practice working outside the country. Clifford Chance has a Beijing-Shanghai-Hong Kong-Munich network, which totals 50 lawyers focused on China-related matters.