Freshfields boosts HK insolvency group

Freshfields has poached corporate restructuring and insolvency partner Michael Barker from Hong Kong firm Johnston Stokes & Master.

Barker is heavily involved in advising HSBC and is believed to be taking a substantial portfolio with him. Freshfields advises the bank in the UK.

Peter Bloxham, head of Freshfields' restructuring and insolvency group, says Barker will build the insolvency practice in Hong Kong and China. He will be based in Hong Kong but will work closely with Bloxham's London-based team.

Bloxham says the move is part of a wider expansion. Freshfields has taken Baker & McKenzie's senior partner Mike Moser. Moser headed Baker & McKenzie's China practice. Baker & McKenzie is making up three senior partners to lead the Hong Kong and Beijing-based group.

Freshfields hopes to further add to its four-partner and 12-assistant team in London and build the Hong Kong office, which is backed by Bangkok and Singapore offices.

Bloxham says Freshfields plans to move London-based insolvency practitioners to Asia. He explains: “There are lots of opportunities in Hong Kong and the office is overstretched. Michael has a very strong name so we needed the resources to do the work that he brings in.”

Barker practised at Allen & Overy before joining Hong Kong firm Johnsons, which Johnsons ended its association with Norton Rose in March.

The UK firm was forced to relocate its China operations to Singapore. It recently lost insolvency head Sandy Pratt.

Sources say that while the UK insolvency market remains flat, international practices continue to cash in on the fallout from the Asian crisis.

Barker will start at Freshfields on 3 January.