Vinson & Elkins to close Shanghai office

Vinson & Elkins has confirmed plans to close its Shanghai office in a bid to consolidate its China practice to focus on state-owned energy companies.

The firm said it would close the office after the management committee voted in favour of the plan. The firm will now have two bases in the region in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Chairman Mark Kelly indicated that the office closures could lead to certain departures.

The firm’s Shanghai office, which was opened in 2003, currently houses three partners, David Blumental, Jay Kolb and Tju Liang Chua, and 10 associates. It’s understood that most will relocate to the firm’s Beijing or Hong Kong office while a number will leave to seek opportunities elsewhere.

A statement from the firm read: ”Where possible, we will provide opportunities for attorneys and staff to remain with the firm in the region, though we realise our decision to consolidate may result in the loss of some dedicated and talented people. We will work closely with all of our Shanghai personnel in the coming months to effect a smooth transition.”

The Texas firm has been a leading advisor on Chinese companies outbound acquisitions in the energy sector. Major Chinese oil and gas clients include Sinopec and CNOOC, which has instructed Vinson & Elkins in many recent transactions. Most recently, the firm advised Sinppec on its $5bn (£3.2bn) acquisition of a stake in the Brazilian unit of Portuguese oil company Galp Energia (30 March 2012).

The statement added: ”Given our firm’s historic ties to the energy industry, concentrating more of our mainland Chinese resources in Beijing, where many of our energy clients are based, allows us to more effectively serve those clients.  In addition, we believe that our enhanced capabilities in Beijing and Hong Kong will benefit our clients across the greater China region.”

In September 2012, the firm named energy transactional lawyer Robert Patterson as its new Beijing managing partner, two years after his relocation from Moscow (21 September 2012). Beijing is the firm’s first office in China, which was opened in 1997, while the Hong Kong office was set up in 2006. The firm currently has four partners each in these two offices.

According to The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150, Vinson & Elkins is the region’s 43rd largest international firm by lawyer numbers, with China being the firm’s main base in the region.

Jones Day is another US firm which has recently announced plans to consolidate its China practice by cutting back its Beijing office (31 May 2013).