Vinson & Elkins loses China co-head to Latham & Watkins

Vinson & Elkins’ (V&E) former China co-head and energy partner David Blumental has left the firm to join Latham & Watkins six months after the Huston-based energy firm closed its Shanghai office.

Blumental will be a corporate partner base in Latham & Watkins’ Hong Kong office. He was previously based in V&E’s Shanghai office and served as the office managing partner. In July 2013, V&E decided to close its Shanghai office in a bid to consolidate its China operations (12 July 2013). As a result, Blumental relocated to the firm’s Hong Kong office late last year.

His practice focuses on cross-border M&A transactions, joint ventures, project development and financing in the oil and gas sector. He also advises clients on cross-border litigation, arbitration, compliance and corporate governance matters involving Chinese or other Asian parties.

“Chinese companies are increasingly active in outbound energy and resources investment activity. This is, and will continue to be, a highly active sector and we see significant opportunities to grow our practice,” said Michael Darden, V&E’s co-chair of the global oil and gas industry group based in Houston.

Apart from energy practice, Latham & Watins has also been building up its Hong Kong office over the past six months. Recently, it hired finance partner Howard Lam from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and corporate partner Ji Liu from Norton Rose Fulbright. It also promoted capital markets lawyer Posit Laohaphan to partner.

Heading towards a different direction from Latham & Watkins, V&E’s China presence has been shrinking. Blumental is the second partner to leave the firm’s China practice following the Shanghai closure. Last July, fellow Shanghai partner Tju Liang Chua left to join Sidley Austin’s Singapore office (17 July 2013).

V&E further reduced its Chinese capabilities in September, as it relocated Beijing-based energy partners Paul Deemer and Rob Patterson to London and Moscow respectively (30 September 2013).

It now has six partners in Beijing and Hong Kong offices and is led by Hong Kong-based partner James Cuclis, the firm’s international coordinator for Asia practice. Jay Kolb is the only partner who previously based in Shanghai remaining in the firm. He currently serves as the Beijing managing partner.