Mayer Brown launches in Hong Kong with Jones Day raid

Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw has swooped on Jones Day to kickstart its Hong Kong office, which has just had its licence approved by the Hong Kong Law Society.

As well as relocating London-based corporate partner Stephen Bottomley to Hong Kong to oversee the opening, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw (MBRM) has lured Jones Day’s Hong Kong-based finance partner Jeff Chen to head the office’s securitisation and finance practice.

As first reported in The Lawyer (13 October), MBRM is to be fully operational in Hong Kong by the end of the year.

Bottomley told The Lawyer: “We are aware that our existing client base in both the US and Europe have aspirations to break into China and Asia generally. Our move into Hong Kong is consistent with the firm’s principle to establish offices in the major financial centres around the world. This is an exciting and significant commitment and we intend to stay here and be successful.”

The 1,535-lawyer firm already has consulting offices in Beijing and Shanghai but its Hong Kong office will be its first in China with a full legal mandate. Its licence is effective from Friday (1 December).

Bottomley added: “We will be applying for a practising licence for mainland China in early 2007. We will probably select from either Beijing or Shanghai as potential locations.”

The office will have an initial finance and corporate capability, with plans to expand into other areas. Bottomley said: “We are looking to build on our corporate/M&A practice as well as private equity and capital markets. We are also considering project finance, IP, international arbitration and international tax.”

The firm’s Hong Kong office currently has capacity for up to 18 lawyers and the firm will be looking to recruit within the year.

MBRM has been hiring partners with China expertise for some time, most recently Washington DC-based trade partner Duane Layton and former Chinese foreign affairs ministry official Connie Wang.

Up until now, the firm’s China consultancies have focused on MBRM’s global trade group, which includes the former American commerce secretary Mickey Kantor. The firm intends to leverage off existing clients of the trade team to provide a workflow to the Hong Kong office.