Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has set foot in Vietnam via an association with local firm LVN & Associates, while confirming it is looking at China for its next move.
The local firm has four lawyers and is led by founding partner Linh Quynh Doan, whose practice focuses on the energy sector such as BOT coal fired power projects. The relationship stemmed from the recruitment of Linh as an of counsel in WFW’s Hong Kong office in June this year. She splits her time between Hanoi and Hong Kong.
Linh founded LVN in 2010 after spending some time practising in Orrick’s Hong Kong office. Upon its establishment, LVN formed an alliance with Orrick in the same year.
WFW co-managing partner Chris Lowe said the firm would only focus on its core sectors in the country, which are energy and natural resources and transport.
“It is a small and neat offering to give us specifically capability in the energy and natural resources sector, and also gives us the maritime and aviation capability,” said Lowe.
“In addition, we have through our Singapore and Bangkok offices pushed into the Vietnamese market, particularly in the oil and gas space. This gives us capability to provide our clients with quality Vietnamese legal advice on cross-border matters,” he added.
He also confirmed plans of fully-integrating LVN into WFW in the future.
Some of WFW’s main clients in Vietnam include Malaysia-based international offshore oilfield services provider Bumi Armada Berhad, PetroVietnam, and airline Thai VietJet Air.
Whilst pushing its presence in South East Asia, WFW is also looking at expanding into mainland China. Lowe confirmed that the firm is considering launching in Beijing or Shanghai.
“It’s absolutely clear that we have to get into China at some stage, but the key issue is to find the right people who fit into our sector focus,” said Lowe. But he eliminated the possibility of entering the country via a joint venture. It is understood that the firm has been talking to potential candidates in the market but has not yet made any hires.
WFW launched into Hong Kong in 2012 by opening an office in association with local firm Lau Leong & Co. WFW now has four bases in Asia: Bangkok, Hanoi, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Vietnamese market has attracted a number of foreign firms to enter in recent years. Allen & Overy (A&O) launched two offices in the country in 2012 by hiring Mayer Brown JSM’s country managing partner, while Rajah & Tann and RHTLaw Taylor Wessing moved into the market with local alliances last year.
Hogan Lovells, which has a long-established presence in the market, added its first Vietnamese partner last October with a senior lawyer hire from A&O.