Partners leave large Chinese firms to set up new brand in Beijing

A group of 12 partners from eight Chinese firms have come together to establish a new firm in Beijing under the banner of Anjie.

The partners come from a range of firms including large nationals Grandall, Zhong Lun and Zhonglun W&D.

The new firm, to be launched in November, will be managed by founding partner Zhan Hao, who is joining from Grandall’s Beijing office, where he is currently executive partner and head of the firm’s antitrust and insurance practices in Beijing.

Zhan will bring his antitrust and insurance teams, which consisting of 20 lawyers, to Anjie. Fellow Grandall Beijing partner Zheng Xilin, formerly a counsel at Akin Gump, will also join Anjie with his team.

Upon its establishment, Anjie will have about 70 staff members, including 40 lawyers and 12 partners. Its practices will include antirust, corporate, dispute resolution, insurance, intellectual property, real estate and securities.

Initially, antitrust and competition law will be a main focus of the firm. In addition to Zhan, another founding partner, Gu Zhengping, who joins from Zhong Lun and previously worked at Linklaters and Allen & Overy in Beijing, is also an experienced practitioner in this area.

Zhan and Gu were among the first Chinese lawyers to practise competition law in China following the enactment of the country’s anti-monopoly law in 2008. Together they have handled more than 60 merger control filings in China and foreign jurisdictions over the past four years. They also regularly advise clients on monopoly agreement and abuse of dominance issues.

“China has a vast market for legal services. The environment for private practices has been improving over the past decade, we see opportunities for a new brand in the market,” said Zhan.

Zhan noted that Anjie endeavours to become a full-service firm with a national network. “We want to become a full-service firm with specialised practice teams. In due course, we will also consider opening in other key Chinese cities, such as Shanghai and Shenzhen. King & Wood, Jun He and Zhong Lun are inspiring role models to us and we have a lot to learn from these successful national firms,” he said.

King & Wood Mallesons, Jun He and Zhong Lun have already established presences outside of China. In terms of internationalisation, Anjie has no immediate plans to open offices abroad or to enter into alliances with foreign firms. According to Zhan, the firm is more interested in hiring partners from international firms for international management and technical expertise.

“Our priority is to establish a strong domestic practice first,” Zhan confirmed.

“There are enough challenges to achieve that. One main challenge is about setting a right management system and partner renumeration system that rewards people fairly and motivates people to work hard. In addition, how to integrate partners and teams from different firms, practices and organisational cultures to work effectively in a new entity requires significant efforts and time.”

Beijing has the largest and most competitive legal industry of China’s cities. According to Beijing Lawyers Association, there were 1,465 law firms in the capital city in March 2012, up by 130 firms from the same time in 2011. The number of lawyers in Beijing increased by 12 per cent year on year to 22,850 in March 2012. The total revenues of the city’s law firms in 2011 grew by 20 per cent from the previous year to RMB13.6bn (£1.4bn).