Welcome to the Asian century ​— in-depth guide to the Asia Pacific legal scene

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By Yun Kriegler

Long gone are the days when an international firm could claim to have an Asia practice by simply planting a flag in Hong Kong or Tokyo. So much has changed in the region since Slaughter and May spearheaded UK firms’ expansion into Hong Kong in 1974, Japan first opened its door to foreign firms in 1987 and China granted the licences to the first 12 international firms for representative offices in 1992.

A series of recent mergers, new entrants and market liberalisation in Asia Pacific, along with the impact of the global crisis, has changed the pecking order and work portfolio of law firms in the region. Baker & McKenzie, for example, has been in the region for 50 years since it expanded into Asia in 1963 by launching offices in Manila and Tokyo. It now has 14 offices across Asia Pacific, the largest footprint in the region among international firms. The firm used to be the region’s largest international player by lawyer headcount, but has been recently surpassed by the newly merged Herbert Smith Freehills…

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