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The firm intends Lai's appointment to strengthen Freshfields' Chinese corporate practice and improve its ability to offer transpacific Hong Kong and US law securities advice.
Freshfields China managing partner Teresa Ko said: "I believe that, on the securities side, we currently offer the most successful one-stop Hong Kong and US securities team in the region."
Prior to joining Freshfields, Lai had been with Goldman Sachs for three years before joining Sullivan in 2003.
Freshfields' Hong Kong office did not receive any new partners in the latest promotions round, although Beijing's corporate department saw Antony Dapiran made up (see story)
Dapiran had been with the firm since 1999 and is triple qualified in Hong Kong, England and Wales and New South Wales.
Freshfields' Hong Kong office currently consists of around 90 lawyers, of which roughly half are locally qualified.
New joiner Lai specialises in capital markets work involving listings on the US and Chinese stock exchanges. Lai, who was born in Hong Kong, speaks Cantonese and Mandarin and was educated in the UK and the US.