Kirkland in major Hong Kong raid on Skadden, Latham and A&O

Kirkland & Ellis has made a dramatic push into the Hong Kong corporate market with the hire of seven partners from a trio of top tier rivals.

Three of Latham & Watkins’ Hong Kong partners and two of Allen & Overy (A&O) senior lawyers are joining Kirkland along with three partners from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom.

Corporate partners Li-Chien Wong, Nick Norris and Dominic Tsun have resigned from Skadden, leaving the firm with eight partners in Hong Kong. Latham is losing former global corporate vice chair David Zhang, John Otoshi and Benjamin Su to Kirkland’s Hong Kong outpost while A&O partner Ashley Young and senior associate Douglas Murning – who is joining Kirkland as a partner – are also expected to join the Chicago-headquartered firm once regulatory hurdles have been cleared.

In a statement Skadden confirmed the departures of the three partners, adding: “We thank them for their contributions in helping to build our strong Hong Kong law practice and wish them well.”

At the same time Skadden has moved to strengthen its Hong Kong office with the hire of former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer local managing partner Clive Rough, who retired from the firm last year.

Banking partner Rough’s clients include Citibank, which he advised (along with HSBC and the Hong Kong government) on the merger of the railway operations of KCRC and MTRC. Rough also advised the bank as sole bookrunner on the $1bn equity and bond financing by Champion REIT for the purchase of Langham Place.

Skadden partner Scott Simpson said Rough’s hire was a sign that the firm would continue to invest in Hong Kong.