Sinclair Roche Hong Kong team implodes

Richards Butler steps in after HK shipping team is left out in the cold post-merger

The partners and associates at the Hong Kong office of Sinclair Roche & Temperly have scattered following the firm’s merger with Stephenson Harwood. Richards Butler has emerged as the victor in the battle for Sinclair Roche’s sought-after shipping team, led by star admiralty partner Paul Apostolis.

Sinclair Roche’s Hong Kong office, which was set up as a separate partnership, was left outside the merger between Sinclair Roche and Stephenson Harwood. Stephenson Harwood already has offices in Hong Kong and Guangzhou which overlapped with the Sinclair Roche practice. It is understood that Stephenson Harwood, which was by far the stronger party in the merger, wanted to cherry pick from the Hong Kong office.

Sinclair Roche had four partners and four associates in Hong Kong. Richards Butler is taking on three including Apostolis; litigation partner Sue McNaughton has joined the merged Stephenson Harwood; and it is understood that David Beaves, the head of Sinclair Roche’s Hong Kong office, may pursue a career outside the law. It is believed that Sinclair Roche’s Australian insolvency partner Anthony Hill may join Minter Ellison and that one associate, Sam Tsui, is going to DLA. It is unclear what will happen to Sinclair Roche’s physical infrastructure.

In addition to Apostolis, Richards Butler is taking Katherine Wang and People’s Republic of China-qualified senior associate Liang Jun Li. The firm’s managing partner Chris Howse said: “We’re delighted to have these three lawyers, all of whom are very well regarded.”

Several of Hong Kong’s top shipping firms battled over the admiralty team, which is expected to take clients to Richards Butler. In addition to international clients, the team acts for developing Chinese state-owned shipping companies. Richards Butler has a historically tight equity structure in Hong Kong, but it is understood that Apostolis, who joins as a salaried partner, is expected to progress quickly to equity status.