Cameron McKenna will wave goodbye to global ambitions as it closes its Hong Kong office, the last operation under the firm’s own banner outside Europe and Central and Eastern Europe.
The move is part of a wider attempt to recreate itself as a European network of law firms under the CMS banner, to be structured in a similar way to the big four accountancy firms.
Camerons managing partner Dick Tyler said: “It’s not a bad analogy at all to think that we’re using a Deloitte model.
“Deloitte and a lot of the accountancy firms operate separate profit centres, but from an external client perspective you deal with one firm.”
Since Camerons’ dramatic 2003 retrenchment in China and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong office has only offered insurance and reinsurance advice from sole partner Tim Ingham and his team.
“We’re a European firm rather than a global firm. We perhaps did spread ourselves too thinly and now we’re looking to build depth rather than breadth,” said Tyler.
Ingham will relocate to Europe by the end of 2007 to spearhead the integration efforts of the insurance and reinsurance group (IRG) within CMS. Camerons is negotiating the exits of Ingham’s two associates, as well as looking for new firms for his clients.
The CMS network retains a joint venture in Shanghai between French firm CMS Bureau Frances Lefebvre, German firm CMS Hasche Sigle and Camerons, but it is dominated by French and German practitioners. Tyler stressed that profit-sharing between CMS firms was not on the integration agenda.
“There’s been a 60 per cent increase in referrals between the CMS firms year-on-year for at least the past two years, so we think we’re achieving something relevant,” he said.
The IRG contributes 12 per cent to Camerons’ turnover, according to insurance head Liam O’Connell. Of that, Hong Kong’s portion was “relatively insignificant”, he said, adding: “We thought we’d have better opportunities and profit by deploying our resources into Europe.”