In the past two weeks alone the three firms have collectively relocated six lawyers to and within Asia.
Linklaters has ramped up its Tokyo capabilities with the transfer of China partner Paul McNicholl, who has been appointed joint managing partner in Tokyo.
McNicholl, who transferred from London to Shanghai in 2005, began his new role last week alongside Akihiro Wani.
He will also take up Casper Lawson’s role as head of Tokyo corporate and M&A when the former returns to London in October.
McNicholl replaces Tony Grundy, who established the office in 1987. Grundy acted as Tokyo’s managing partner for seven years and was joint managing partner from April 2005.
Grundy will remain as a Tokyo partner, which means that Linklaters’ partner headcount in the office will remain unchanged at 13.
Giles White, Linklaters Asia chief, who took over from firmwide managing partner-elect Simon Davies earlier this year, said that McNicholl teaming up with Wani will take the firm to greater heights in Japan.
A&O has seen the greatest level of activity in the region, moving four Hong Kong-based lawyers to Beijing. The firm’s head of communications, media and technology Will McAuliffe has made the move, joined by corporate counsel Rose Zhu, corporate senior associate Jane Jiang and finance legal adviser Robert Cui.
Mainland China was one jurisdiction that A&O committed to bulking up at the beginning of the year. Beijing managing partner Peter Thorp said the moves were particularly important to beef up the firm’s corporate capability in China.
He added that the intention is to also increase finance and regulatory capabilities in Beijing.
As well as focusing on Beijing, in Shanghai A&O has hired senior banking associate David Cox from Australian firm Minter Ellison.
This pushes up the firm’s headcount in Shanghai to 41 lawyers, including local counsel.
For Clifford Chance, ramping up its Asian insurance capabilities has been key. It led to the firm last week transferring London-based insurance senior associate Alex Gordon to Hong Kong.
Head of the firm’s Asia insurance group Mark Shipman said Gordon’s addition demonstrates the firm’s commitment to supporting its Asian insurance clients.
Earlier this year Clifford Chance’s firmwide managing partner David Childs told The Lawyer (30 July) that associate and partner mobility is part of the firm’s ongoing strategy. Everyone coming up to partnership will be expected to have undertaken a stint either in another office or with a client, he said.
Commenting on all the magic circle firms’ moves into Asia, one Linklaters partner said: “The Asian market is continuing to be buoyant and has massive room for growth, which is why it makes perfect sense for the big guns to move into the arena.”