Gianni Origoni heads East, Gide bulks up at home

Gide’s shock raid on Morgan Lewis Paris has certainly caught the headlines. Gide has so often been the target for headhunters that the firm’s fightback took many by surprise. Certainly, the haul of nine partners and a total of 19 lawyers has allowed it to bulk up on corporate in particular; five partners and four associates of the Morgan Lewis team will be sitting in Gide’s M&A department.

Will any of that corporate work be from Asian clients? One of the continual hot topics on European lawyers’ lips is the imminent arrival of Chinese investors into their home markets. With many assets going cheap right now, there is plenty of fodder for the savvy Asian investor.

A number of firms have already got a foot on the ground in the Far East to respond to the demand, and next up is set to be Italy’s Gianni Origoni Grippo Cappelli & Partners. The firm, which already has a handful of foreign offices (Abu Dhabi, Brussels, London and New York) is pretty advanced in its plans to open in Hong Kong.

As in its other overseas offices, Gianni Origoni will only practise Italian law in Hong Kong. But China desk head Stefano Beghi thinks being on the ground there is the only way to build the kind of relationships with Chinese law firms and businesses that it needs, in order to be in pole position when the Chinese rush into Europe really begins.

Gianni Origoni, like the other European firms present in Asia, will have a keen competitor. King & Wood Mallesons’ impending merger with SJ Berwin will put a major Asian firm on the ground in Europe for the first time, and many are watching with interest to see what the impact will be.

In the meantime, getting set up in China or Hong Kong is a good first step to attracting Chinese businesses to use independent European firms.