Norton Rose is back on the HSBC panel in Hong Kong just four months after reopening its office there
The firm lost its place on the panel following the termination of its joint venture with Johnson Stokes & Master in 1998, which sparked a restrictive covenant preventing Norton Rose from practising in Hong Kong for three years. Firms already on the bank's Hong Kong panel include Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters and Johnson Stokes. HSBC global head of legal Richard Bennett confirmed the appointment. "There's been no resistance to the move because it's a firm we've used a lot in the past," he said. However, there is likely to be opposition from Johnson Stokes, which has had a turbulent relationship with Norton Rose since their joint venture was terminated. But Bennett played down any problems, saying: "The disagreement with Johnson Stokes is not my problem. Norton Rose has historically given very good advice. Johnson Stokes may not like it but will have to accept it, as I believe competition between firms is healthy." Norton Rose has a good stable of global clients; and according to chief executive officer Peter Martyr: "The firm has maintained good relationships with all of its Hong Kong clients during its three-year absence." The new office has reunited a number of the old Hong Kong office members, including David Stannard, who heads the office, and former colleagues Jim James, Peter Haslam and Graeme Muir. However, according to Asia head Paul Giles, the firm intends to refocus the Hong Kong office on corporate finance, asset finance and litigation. Norton Rose has been out of the market during an economic slowdown, during which corporate finance work has been thin on the ground, and will benefit from going back in at a period when ground rents are fairly low and quality associates are easier to pick up. The firm has taken space in Jardine House.