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Simmons & Simmons is attempting to stem its recent problems in Hong Kong by parachuting in its international head of corporate Damon Le Maitre-George.
Simmons has suffered a series of defections to Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson of late (for full details see page 8), including its former regional managing partner Huen Wong and its regional head of corporate Stephen Mok.
Le Maitre-George will remain international head of corporate. He also sits on the firm's executive committee. His relocation to Hong Kong is a strong statement by the firm about not only the importance of the office to Simmons as a whole, but also of China to its business strategy.
"It's obvious that China is key to any international firm, but its importance will only grow in the coming years," Le Maitre-George told The Lawyer.
He will oversee a refocusing of the corporate group across China, which firm managing partner Mark Dawkins and Le Maitre-George believe has been overly dependent on IPOs.
Dawkins said: "There's the feeling that in the future there will be more private equity work coming out of China than IPOs. Having an over-dependency on IPOs is unhealthy because the work will dry up eventually."
Dawkins said he was unworried about the recent defections, saying that Mok's group focused mainly on IPOs. As well as increasing its offering in private equity, Simmons wants to build lucrative relationships with domestic Chinese corporates investing abroad.
Le Maitre-George wants to hire a handful of partners in Hong Kong, with one new lateral in Shanghai, by this time next year. Simmons is also awaiting a licence to practise in Beijing, expected in 2007.
Stepping into Le Maitre-George's role as head of corporate and commercial in London will be his deputy Mark Curtis.