UK and US firms lead charge into booming mainland China

A raft of US and UK law firms are set to flood China’s mainland over the coming months, as the country opens its gates to more foreign firms.

The Chinese Ministry of Justice has granted 16 licence applications for firms ready to open new offices on the mainland. US firms Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Godfrey & Khan, Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Stephenson Harwood & Lo are among the US firms to have received approval to open offices in Shanghai and Beijing.

For Cleary, its Beijing office will be the firm’s first move into China’s mainland. The office will focus on private equity, investment and M&A.

Stephenson Harwood & Lo Hong Kong and China managing partner John Gale told The Lawyer that the firm was rebranding its Shanghai practice from Stephenson Harwood to its Asia joint venture name.

He said the firm would focus on foreign direct investment as well as building up its shipping practice.

“China’s economy is booming and that’s certainly attracting clients to invest in China, which is also attracting foreign firms to the region,” he said. “But we’re also looking at work from outward investment, where Chinese companies are looking to invest in businesses outside China.”
UK-based firms Clyde & Co, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary and Norton Rose have also secured licences to open offices on China’s mainland.

Shanghai will be Clydes’ first office in China, while Norton Rose is adding to its four-year-old Beijing operation. Clydes chief executive Peter Hasson said: “We see this as being a core part of our Asian operation.”

There are also several Asian firms increasing their presences in China, including Good Morning Korea Law Firm, Nobuo Takai Law Office and XJ Wang & Co.