Kirkland eyes greater ties with China’s Jun He as Shanghai partner joins PRC firm

A China-based Kirkland & Ellis corporate partner has left the firm at the end of his three-year contract to return to his former firm Jun He.

With 20 years of experience Li Xiaoyang is a well-regarded lawyer in private equity and M&A areas. He joined Jun He as a senior partner from King & Wood in March 2007, and moved to take up a partner position with Kirkland in December 2008. Initially based in Hong Kong, he helped Kirkland launch its second Asia office in Shanghai and then relocated to the new office in September 2009.

Li has now rejoined Jun He as a partner in the firm’s Beijing head office, where he will play a strategic advisor’s role, with a focus on private equity and M&A as well as cultivating younger partners and lawyers.

“Li has done a great job during the past three years, a time period we agreed on when he came on board,” said Kirkland Hong Kong partner David Eich. “After three years, he has left behind a stronger and bigger China team, which now consists of 15 Chinese senior lawyers.

David Eich
David Eich

“His return to Jun He is a great news for us, as he’ll help strengthen our relationship with this elite Chinese firm, whom we’ve already been working with frequently,” added Eich.

For Li, who planned to retire after the three-year term with Kirkland, his retirement plan will be postponed for several years.

“Several international and domestic firms have approached me but I decided to rejoin Jun He due to my previous ties with the firm, its culture, atmosphere and democratic principles in the government of the firm,” said Li.

“I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience and know-how during my time with Kirkland and I’m keen to share this management and technical know-how with domestic firms and lawyers.”

Li also pointed out that due to restrictions on practising PRC law, international firms’ mainland China offices will remain small in size and the shift in focus towards outbound investment will continue.

“The legal services market in the mainland has become extremely competitive. Compared to spending lots of money on hiring many lawyers in China, it makes better sense for international firms to establish good working relationship with local PRC firms,” Li said.

Jun He has hired a number of partners from international firms in recent months (12 October 2011). Internationalisation is definitely on the agenda of the firm, although a merger with an international firm is not on the horizon at the moment.

“I understand that there’s no plan for an international merger in Jun He. However, if the King & Wood and Mallesons merger is successful, it will put huge pressure on Jun He and other leading PRC firms,” said Li.