Bignon ramps up for China opening

French independent Bignon Lebray has launched a Chinese law practice with the hire of a partner from Haarmann Hemmelrath and the opening of a new office in Shanghai.

Bignon is to open its Shanghai office in September this year, working alongside Chinese firm Beacon. Beacon is a recent recruit to international network Meritas, to which Bignon also belongs.

Partner François Perruchot Triboulet will move from Bignon’s office in Aix-en-Provence to Shanghai to run the office. Meanwhile, Bruno Lefébure, who ran Haarmann’s Shanghai office for three years until September 2005, has joined Bignon’s Paris office to build the firm’s Chinese capability in France.

Lefébure told The Lawyer: “Based in Paris, it will be easier to find clients. My job will be to push European clients to China. But also more and more Chinese are starting to invest in Europe and we have to be there with a Chinese team.”

Bignon becomes one of only a handful of French firms with a presence in China. Others include Gide Loyrette Nouel, independent firm Adamas, and CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre, which shares a Shanghai office with network firms CMS Cameron McKenna and CMS Hasche Sigle.

The 12-partner Beacon has a Beijing office in addition to a Shanghai base. The firm’s clients include the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, Ford and Halliburton, among other large organisations.

Lefébure’s move comes amid continued uncertainty as to the future of Haarmann Hemmelrath’s Paris office, which did not sign up to the London and Frankfurt merger with Squire Sanders & Dempsey earlier this year.

The firm was rocked in 2005 by financial problems and high-profile departures from a number of its offices.