Simmons plans rebuilding programme in China

Simmons & Simmons has started to rebuild its China offering following the devastating raid by Fried Frank Shriver & Jacobson last month.

Simmons managing partner Mark Dawkins told The Lawyer he would be focussing on the region and has finally appointed a new China regional managing partner, after a month of uncertainty.

Hong Kong head of financial services Paul Li was named to the post, which was left open by the shock departure of Huen Wong plus four other partners in September to Fried Frank Harris to launch the US firm’s first local office. The defectors included Simmons’ regional corporate head Stephen Mok.

Dawkins said that Li’s appointment marked a “restabilisation” of Simmons’ regional teams. Employment partner Fiona Loughrey had been caretaking as interim China managing partner.

Simmons has been quick to take three corporate associates with two joining in the Hong Kong office and one in Shanghai, from Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith respectively. The firm now has to fill the partner headcount depleted by the exodus to Fried Frank.

Dawkins said that only the corporate team would be bolstered, both through internal promotions and lateral hires. “We’re in no particular rush, so we’re not going to be taking on any old lateral,” said Dawkins.

Mok and one other were the only corporate partners to leave. The other departures were from real estate and construction and were deemed “non-core” to the areas circled for development in the region, namely TMT, energy, financial institutions and life sciences. This fits with with the firm’s global strategy.

The Shanghai office will see particular focus on hiring, said Dawkins. It currently only has 22 lawyers while the Hong Kong office has 120 lawyers.