Davis Polk takes a punt

In the same way that it took a while for people to get used to the idea that you could buy stamps from newsagents, clothes from Tesco and grills from George Foreman, it may take some time before people associate Davis Polk & Wardwell with anything except US law. But, the New York headquartered firm isn’t doing this branching out business by halves.

Davis Polk’s latest push has seen it launch a Hong Kong litigation practice after hiring Clifford Chance’s Asia litigation head Martin Rogers and partner James Wadham (see story). Both have been at Clifford Chance for at least a decade and work on complex disputes.

But then, Davis Polk has become quite adept at prising partners from their magic circle homes. When the US firm first launched its Hong Kong law practice in 2010, it pinched Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s former Beijing office head. Likewise, when it came to launching an English-law practice in London, Davis Polk again turned to Freshfields, filching corporate star Simon Witty. Davis Polk later reinforced its London group with Will Pearce from Herbert Smith (not strictly speaking magic circle, but by all accounts Pearce is the same quality).

Davis Polk’s plans have even drawn best friend Slaughter and May into the ugly spectacle of competition, with sources within the firm stating that the elite adviser was now mulling a US practice launch in Hong Kong. Davis Polk’s rampant expansion into UK and Hong Kong law could soon make it a serious contender in both places. Firms would be unwise not to check behind their shoulders.

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