Gibson Dunn names new Hong Kong chief ahead of localisation

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher has named its Hong Kong founding partner Kelly Austin as the new partner-in-charge ahead of the office’s plan to convert to a Hong Kong solicitors’ firm in August.

Austin joined Gibson Dunn in August 2010 when the firm re-launched in Hong Kong after closing its first office there in 1997 (2 August 2010). Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, she served as the compliance and litigation counsel for General Electric in Asia. In that role, she coordinated litigation, alternative dispute resolution proceedings, government and internal investigations and compliance matters for the GE businesses throughout the region.

She is a partner of Gibson Dunn’s white collar defence and investigation practice, focusing on government investigations, regulatory compliance and disputes resolution.

Austin’s appointment to the office head follows partner Joseph Barbeau’s relocation from Hong Kong to Beijing to head the new office in January 2013 (8 January 2013).

Austin told The Lawyer that the Hong Kong office is in the process of recruiting additional lawyers and has leased extra office space in Hong Kong’s Gloucester Tower to accommondate a growing team.

Currently, the Hong Kong team consists of 12 lawyers, including three partners. Apart from Austin, the two other partners are Graham Winter and Yi Zhang, who joined in November 2011 from Reed Smith Richards Butler and O’Melveny & Myers respectively (3 November 2011).

In August, coinciding with the office’s three-year anniversary, it will convert from foreign law firm status to a Hong Kong solicitors’ firm. At present, the firm provides Hong Kong law advice through its local association firm GW & Associates, which was set up by Winter when he joined the firm. In anticipation of the full localisation, Austin and Zhang have both recently passed the Hong Kong’s Overseas Lawyers Qualification Examination and become Hong Kong qualified solicitors.