International Report: Tanner de Witt

Hong Kong-based firm Tanner De Witt has had a bumper year, which has seen it more than double in size.

Since July 2004, the firm has gone from strength to strength, increasing the number of partners from three to six. Meanwhile, its fee-earner headcount has risen from 16 to 30.

The biggest period of growth has been in the last 12 months, during which Tanner De Witt has gone on a hiring spree. Most recently the firm has poached Thomas Feld for its construction team from Hong Kong firm Robertsons.

Tanner De Witt grabbed headlines last year when it snared White & Case partner Robin Darton in April and Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw lawyer Nicholas Longley. Both joined as partners. Paul Westover was also appointed as a partner in June.

Not a bad effort for a firm that started out with just two ex-pat lawyers and a secretary.

Tanner De Witt was founded in 1999 by Richard Tanner and Ian De Witt. Operating from a small office in Wanchai, Hong Kong, the pair was soon joined by Mark Side before the firm achieved recognition as part of the Hong Kong legal and business communities.

In another sign of growth, the firm leased additional office space at its existing Hong Kong headquarters in April.

Managing partner De Witt says the firm had grown so much that it hopes to launch an office in Shanghai sometime during the next nine months.

“We hope to establish a presence on China’s mainland soon,” he says. “Shanghai is our preferred location – it seems like the natural progression for us as a firm.”

Tanner De Witt focuses mainly on business law. Its legal practice is divided into eight core areas, including corporate and commercial, commercial litigation, insolvency, construction law, insurance law, employment law, aviation law and tenancy law.

The firm provides legal services to the worldwide business community with interests in Hong Kong, China and the Asia-Pacific region. Its key clients include Virgin Airlines, KPMG and Pirelli Cables.

De Witt says that, when the firm was first established, it rejected the idea of developing a general practice, instead allowing its lawyers to build on their areas of expertise.

“We took the view that we should focus on our own spheres of experience and leave others to work on theirs,” he explains. “I have to say, all of the partners were friends and we remain friends – that was the kind of business environment we wanted to create.”

Managing partner: Ian De Witt
Total number of partners: Six
Total number of fee-earners: 52
Main practice areas: Business law, construction, corporate, litigation
Key clients: Virgin, International Air Transport Association, Pirelli Cables, KPMG, SmartTrust
Number of offices: One
Location: Hong Kong