Sidley & Austin Hong Kong founder joins Herbert Smith

Sidley & Austin is losing one of the founding partners of its Hong Kong operation to Herbert Smith, just a year after the office was established.

Simon Meng, who is qualified in New York and Paris, has joined Herbert Smith's reg-ional project group as a consultant due to the Hong Kong Law Society's restriction on foreign lawyers practising within the jurisdiction.

But he will be classed as a partner at Herbert Smith's offices outide of Hong Kong.

Meng helped set up Sidley & Austin's Hong Kong office in March 1999 after the firm was forced to wait a year for an operating licence in the region (The Lawyer, 8 March 1999).

Commenting on his reasons for leaving the firm, Meng says: “It is a professional reason. [Sidley & Austin] did not want to pursue an oil and gas practice.

“Herbert Smith has a much stronger international gas and energy practice in Hong Kong which I intend to develop.”

Meng's departure will leave Sidley & Austin's Hong Kong practice with just two partners – Eugene Lu, who moved over from the firm's Los Angeles office, and Roderick MacNeil, who was a local consultant before joining the practice.

Herbert Smith's head of the Asia region David Willis says: “Meng is quite a rare animal in the sense that he works in China but qualified in the West.

“His focus on the energy market fits in well with Herbert Smith. We think that the gas sector is going to grow and his French background is of particular interest because the French are increasingly active here.”

Sidley & Austin set up its office to focus on project finance, securitisations and corporate work.

But one local source says: “It does not really do any securitisations work to speak of.”

Meng is joining a three-partner department which is headed by Jack Young.