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LONDON-BASED Freshfields partner Ruth Markland is returning to Asia after six years in the UK to become the firm's first-ever managing partner for the region.
Markland moves out at the end of the month to assume control of Freshfields' Asian network, which covers Tokyo, Hong Kong/China, Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore.
From 1 January she will take on an additional role as head of the Hong Kong office - the largest in the network - replacing Mark Freeman. He is returning to the London finance practice 10 years after setting up the eight-partner office.
Senior partner John Grieves said the appointment "reflects the growing importance of our Asian network and our commitment to a integrated service throughout Asia".
Markland joined Freshfields as a newly-qualified solicitor in 1977 and transferred to Singapore in 1981. She later worked in Hong Kong and became a partner in 1983.
In 1989 she returned to London to work in the company department. She now handles both a corporate and finance client base. "It's very exciting for me to be able to make use of the experience that I've had and to fulfil the job that we believe needs to be done in Asia," said Markland.
"At the moment work in the region is co-ordinated from London but, given the growing importance of our Asian network, we feel that moving someone out there is the most efficient way to optimise our opportunities."
She said she would also continue a line practice from Hong Kong, dealing with local entities and multinational companies investing in the region.
"I think it's very important to maintain a line practice as well. I enjoy line work and it's important to the clients and to the people that I'm managing to know that I have direct experience at the coalface."
Freshfields's record in Asia has been characterised by controversy following the firm's poaching of a number of Coudert Brothers' Asian-based lawyers some years ago.