China’s DeHeng adds Brussels capability with ex-DLA Piper hire

DeHeng Law Offices, one of China’s largest law firms, has appointed Brussels-based competition lawyer Frank Fine as a senior counsel in anticipation of increasing European Commission investigations on Chinese companies.

Frank Fine
Frank Fine

Fine, founder and director of Brussels-based competition boutique EC Competition Law Advocates, will continue to run his existing firm and will serve as the exclusive representative of DeHeng in Brussels.

Prior to setting up his own boutique in 2004, Fine was a founding partner of DLA Piper’s Brussels office. He is dual-qualified in the US and the UK and represents companies before the European Commission and courts, advising on competition investigations, antitrust litigation and compliance. He started practising in Brussels in 1986.

One of the recent cases he handled was the representation of South African Airways in an EU airfreight investigation and in a related UK civil action.

Fine’s boutique firm in Brussels is a two-practitioner firm. It uses secondment lawyers and contract lawyers from established firms in Brussels when extra manpower is needed to handle large projects.

Beijing-headquartered DeHeng has over 800 lawyers including 180 partners. It has 21 offices in China and three offices overseas – in New York, the Hague and Paris. With the appointment of Fine it has become the first Chinese firm to have a Brussels base.

Fine will work closely with DeHeng’s lead partner for foreign direct investment David Chen and head of the firm’s competition and antitrust practice group Li Zhong, both of whom are based in Beijing.

“DeHeng has a number of big state-owned enterprise clients. Increasingly they’ll have needs in Brussels for EU competition and trade legal representation. DeHeng’s move to Brussels aims to help these clients sort things out,” said Fine.

In Fine’s view, there will be increasing investigation activity against Chinese companies over trade and competition matters, particularly in light of the recently signed memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the area of anti-monopoly law by the European Commission and the Chinese government.

“In addition, DeHeng, along with a few other Chinese firms, are in the process of doing the same thing the big US and UK firms have done – going global,” he said.

In 2010, DeHeng established an office in the Hague by taking on small local firm Civil Code. The Dutch firm’s founding partner Victor Meijers became DeHeng’s global partner following the merger.

The firm’s Paris and New York offices were set up in 2001 and 1998 respectively. The New York office is currently the firm’s largest overseas office with 15 lawyers.

Other Chinese firms with a presence in Europe include Zhong Lun in London (13 February 2012) and Grandall in Paris (2 February 2012).