In 2006 Zhonglun W&D Law Firm became the first Chinese firm to launch in London, and it is thought to be still the only Chinese firm with English-qualified lawyers working in the City.
Zhonglun was officially established in 1992 when China became an open market. But managing partner HaiBin Xue says that if you count its pre-open market history, it is one of the oldest in China.
“There are many international law firms, but most of them originated from the western part of the world,” says Xue. “In the past few years a lot of Chinese companies have become international, and law firms, as service providers, should follow their needs.”
Zhonglun, which is associated with firms in Paris and Lyon, opened an office in Riyadh in 2009. It is also about to tie up with a firm in Hong Kong. In terms of expansion, though, London is where it all began.
“We chose London because of the English-speaking environment and the financial sector here,” recalls Xue.
“When we launched the office four years ago, it was thought to be the most convenient place from which to expand across Europe.”
In London Zhonglun has 10 lawyers and two support staff. It also has four partners and of counsel at the office, all of whom have qualified in the UK. The office specialises in transactions between China and Europe.
When the firm opened in London Xue imagined he would be helping clients expand across Europe, but in the past three years has advised more UK and European firms going into China, he says.
In 2009 Zhonglun was sole legal counsel for Chinese client Global Lock Safety when it listed on AIM.
This is most unusual, says Xue, as international firms usually have to get involved on deals like this at some point. But not this time.
Firm name: Zhonglun W&D Law Firm
Managing partner: HaiBin Xue
Number of partners: 35
Number of equity partners: 25
Number of lawyers: 25
Number of fee-earners: 150
Main practice areas: Banking, corporate finance, infrastructure, IP, private equity, real estate
Number of offices: Eight
Locations: Beijing, Chengdu, London, Riyadh, Shanghai, Shijiazhuang, Taiyuan, Wuhan
Key clients: 3i Group, AOL, China Development Bank, China Mobile, CITIC, CNPC, JK Rowling, Kodak, NEC, Sequoia Capital, Sinopec, Softbank Corp, TCL, ZTC