CITY firm Sinclair Roche & Temperley has appointed a new head of its pioneering Far Eastern operations.
Finance and banking partner Ian Gaunt, who moves from London to Hong Kong, will co-ordinate the firm's offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Hanoi - where Sinclair Roche & Temperley was the first UK firm to open an office earlier this year.
Specialist oil and gas lawyer Michael Horn is joining the Hanoi office.
Gaunt says although the Vietnam office will develop rapidly, particularly in the field of oil and gas, it is adopting a fairly cautious approach.
"China is the real growth area at the moment, overshadowing everything else," he says.
Sinclair Roche & Temperley and Clifford Chance are still the only UK law firms working under licence in Shanghai, although other practices have opened offices on an unlicensed basis.
Shanghai's booming economy has produced mushroom growth in the number of Chinese lawyers.
"Since the abolition of the legal profession in China in 1977, and after its return in 1979, lawyers were at first very slow to recover," says Gaunt. "But there are now 250 well-qualified Chinese lawyers specialising in maritime law alone."
Partner Roger Hancock is moving to the firm's Shanghai office, where he will be joined by William Cawley, an associate solicitor in litigation who has been working on secondment for the past year with Seoul-based lawyers Lee & Ko.
Gaunt says that the firm's Hong Kong office has also shown steady growth over the past year, particularly in litigation.
He will combine the task of managing the Hong Kong office with co-ordinating the work of the other offices in Singapore, Shanghai and Vietnam.