Cravath ditches Hong Kong office

White shoe firm Cravath Swaine & Moore is quitting Hong Kong, its sole base in Asia.

As revealed on 26 March in Lawyer News Weekly, The Lawyer’s weekly email news service, the elite New York firm is the latest casualty of the continued economic slump in the Far East, following fellow US firm Dewey Ballantine out of Hong Kong.

CMS Cameron McKenna has also scaled back its Hong Kong operations into an insurance boutique and quit Beijing. In the same month, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe shut their branch offices in Singapore.

In an internal memorandum issued last Monday (24 March) and seen by The Lawyer, Cravath told staff in its Hong Kong office: “This is a difficult decision, but we believe that our clients are better served by concentrating our resources in our New York and London offices. Though we are closing our Hong Kong office, we remain committed to serving the needs of our clients worldwide.”

The move will see Cravath’s two Hong Kong-based partners, Roger Turner and Julie Spellman, and five associates relocate to New York. It is understood that four locally-hired lawyers will be made redundant.

Cravath’s Hong Kong office does not have a licence to practise local law and focused principally on advising US clients doing local deals. These included advising on US law aspects of the $1.4bn (£891.5m) flotation of China National Offshore Oil Corporation in 2001.

Cravath’s Hong Kong office was unavailable for comment.