DLA Piper and Orrick go to court as China row escalates

The bitter feud between DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe over Coudert Brothers’ Beijing office has reached boiling point as the rivals prepare to face each other in court.

The slanging match flared up after an associate within the team that defected to DLA Piper filed a lawsuit against Coudert Beijing, which is in the process of transferring its operations to Orrick.

A preliminary hearing of associate Yuanming Wang’s claim is scheduled to take place before the Chaoyang District People’s Court next week.

She claims that Coudert effectively terminated her employment on 14 December by refusing her access to the firm’s computer and phone systems. She joined DLA Piper on 17 December.

However, a former Coudert partner who joined Orrick claimed the lawsuit had no merit and was an effort “to create upset before the Ministry of Justice [MoJ] to slow [Orrick’s licence application] down”.

DLA Piper and Orrick first clashed over the recruitment of Coudert associates last summer, when both made raids on Coudert’s prestigious Chinese practice, as reported by The Lawyer (12 September 2005).

Rumours have been rife in China’s legal market recently over the legality of Orrick’s application and whether the MoJ may force the firm to close one or both of its offices there.

Wang filed the lawsuit on 29 April after the Chaoyang District Labour Dispute Arbitration Commission unanimously denied her claim on 25 March.