Jones Day to downsize in Beijing

Jones Day’s Beijing office could be halved in size in the coming months, as the firm mulls over the relocation of several partners and associates to other China offices.

The Lawyer understands that staff in Jones Day’s Beijing office were called into a meeting last Friday (24 May) to be informed about the firm’s decision to adjust its resources and team configurations in Greater China, a move that could lead to a substantial downsize in Beijing.

Currently, Jones Day’s Beijing office houses around 20 lawyers, including eight resident partners. It is understood that up to half of the partners, along with several lawyers, will be relocated to the firm’s Shanghai and Hong Kong office.

Jones Day’s Beijing office was opened in 2003 and is the firm’s fourth location in Greater China, following Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei. At its height at the end of 2007, Jones Day had nearly 50 fee-earners in Beijing. A substantial number of these joined from DLA Piper’s Beijing office when a team led by former DLA Piper Beijing managing partner Tao Jingzhou joined Jones Day (13 November 2007). Jingzhou then left the firm in 2011 to join Dechert. Following the global financial crisis, the Beijing office has seen its staff turnover rate increase and its lawyer headcount gradually shrink to its current size.

The firm’s Beijing office is now headed by corporate partner John Kao, who became a partner in its Taipei office in 2005 and relocated to Beijing to oversee the local base in 2008.

Kao denied the adjustment in Beijing was a downsizing exercise and insisted the firm has no intention of making redundancies in Beijing.

“The Greater China offices have a fluid arrangement and people frequently move around the three offices. We’ve made the strategic decision to move a number of partners to reside more permanently in different offices where they can better service our clients and team configuration,” said Kao.

According to Kao, the most likely relocations will see European antitrust partner Sébastien Evrard moving to Hong Kong and corporate partner Ian Liao moving to Shanghai, while another partner is to relocate to Hong Kong for personal reasons.

Jones Day is still in discussion with other partners and lawyers on relocation options that can best fit into its China practices as well as lawyers’ personal preferences.

“Beijing will remain an important location for the firm and we’ll continue to grow the office according to our strategic focus,” said Kao. He identified that antitrust, government regulatory, intellectual property and outbound investment as the four key focus areas in Beijing.

Apart from Kao and IP partner Horace Lam, who joined the firm from Hogan Lovells in 2011, most of the other resident partners in Beijing were recently made up, including antitrust partner Zhang Yizhe in 2013 and corporate partner Jessica Tang in 2012.