Clifford Chance corporate partner Jim Baird will replace John East as regional managing partner for Asia in mid-July.
After three and a half years in Asia, first as senior partner and then regional managing partner, East will return to London to take up his new position of chairman-elect of the Partnership Selection Committee. East said: "There will be a lot I'll miss, but it's an interesting job I'll be doing in London." Baird, who is based at the Hong Kong office, also relishes his new role. "I expect it to be very challenging but immensely rewarding," he said. Baird acknowledges that in many ways it would be easier to take over from a weaker predecessor. "John's a hard act to follow, which makes it more difficult for the successor to replicate it," he said. Under the guidance of both men, Clifford Chance has expanded throughout Asia, taking advantage of liberalised legal markets wherever possible. The firm's Japanese joint venture with Tokyo firm Tanaka & Akita came into effect in May. It is one of the largest in Tokyo, combining 28 international and 11 Japanese lawyers, and will be called Clifford Chance and Tanaka & Akita. In Hong Kong, Baird was instrumental in developing the firm's corporate practice. Chief executive Michael Bray said of his colleague: "After 11 years practising in the Asian market, Jim is a highly respected figure in the legal and business community and is well equipped to help the firm successfully face the challenges in the region." Baird aims to build on his work in the East, citing the need to continue developing local law capability across the region. With the Clifford Chance office in Singapore being without a joint venture partner following last year's aborted talks with the Wong Partnership, Baird said he would monitor the progress of the current alliances. He said: "The firm will consider strategic opportunities. We won't expand just for the sake of it."