Shearman & Sterling managing partner Whitney Pidot has relocated to Asia to spearhead expansion in the area.
Pidot has concluded his three-year tenure as firm-wide managing partner and moved to focus on opportunities for growth in Asia. Earlier this year, Robert Treuhold was appointed as the new global managing partner.
Pidot is a member of the four-partner executive group responsible for managing the firm. He said: “We decided to have someone from the executive team on the ground in each of the major time zones.”
Pidot will be based in Singapore, providing a counterweight to Hong Kong head Ed Turner. Turner was Asia managing partner until Pidot's move. Pidot will oversee the operations of the Asian offices and mastermind Shearman's strategy for increasing business.
Pidot said: “In five years, we see Asia as being a significant play for anyone who is going to purport to be a global law firm.”
Recently, Shearman was forced to address problems of over-staffing with a raft of cuts. A number of redundancies have affected the Hong Kong and Singapore offices. Pidot said: “It is disingenuous to assume a law firm is immune to the business cycle.”
“In five years, we see Asia as being a significant play for anyone who is going to purport to be a global law firm”
Whitney Pidot, Shearman
Pidot put the over-staffing down to insecurities in the legal market, which has meant fewer associates have left the firm. He said that the cuts announced would produce the level of attrition usually witnessed by the firm.
Pidot said that there are exploitable opportunities created by negative economic conditions. Shearman will modify its focus and target both restructuring and dispute resolution work.
The firm plans to hire aggressively within the local market and to do some internal juggling to set up an Asian arbitration practice within the next few months. Pidot said: “A lawyer can attract new relations just as easily in troubled times as in boom times.”
The firm will pursue a cautious, pinpointed approach to growth.
Shearman's Asia plan includes new offices in addition to new practice groups. According to Pidot, the firm will open a second office in China as soon as local regulations allow it.
Joint ventures again appear on the Pidot radar. He said the firm would analyse the Tokyo market before looking for a joint law venture. Shearman already has a joint legal venture in Singapore with local firm Stamford.
Pidot said that the relationship was providing a number of opportunities and established a blueprint for ties with domestic firms in Asian jurisdictions. “I would expect to expand on, or replicate our venture in Singapore,” he said.