US firm Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson has called time on its beleaguered Hong Kong and Shanghai offices, with plans to close its Asian operations after seven years in June 2015.
Ongoing discussions are thought to revolve around the possibility of maintaining a service office in Hong Kong, which could be an unmanned office used for meetings.
It is thought that the firm will also maintain its licence to operate as a foreign law firm in Shanghai.
In recent years, the firm’s headcount in the two Asian cities has failed to grow.
The firm’s Hong Kong office is currently home to four partners, including managing partner Douglas Freeman, two corporate partners Carolyn Sng and Victor Chen and litigation partner Alfred Wu.
It is understood that Hong Kong-based consultant Philip Nunn, eight associates and 18 staff alongside the partners are in discussions to determine whether they are to relocate to another region or exit the firm.
Shanghai-based consultant Huen Wong is also involved in the negotiations.
Fried Frank launched in Hong Kong in 2006 with five partners from Simmons & Simmons (27 September 2006) including Wong. He joined Fried Frank alongside Nunn, Raymond Kwok, who then joined US firm Blank Rome in 2009, and Stephen Mok, who quit for Eversheds in 2009 (16 February 2009). Simmons Shanghai partner Michael Hickman also joined Fried Frank, but left in 2008 to join Dechert as a partner in its corporate and securities practice group.
A second wave of hires from Simmons saw the arrival of capital markets and M&A partner Victoria Lloyd, who left for Ropes & Gray in 2013, and Liang Tsui, who moved to Dechert with Hickman (12 December 2006).
Former Asia managing partner Wong was sent to run the firm’s Shanghai office in 2007 (10 October 2007) alongside Hickman. After Dechert, Hickman returned to Simmons as a senior counsel before joining PRC firm Haiwen & Partners as an international partner.
Last year Fried Frank relocated its last remaining Paris-based partner, Eric Cafritz, to London (29 January 2014).