A total of 50 staff including 15 lawyers have left Reed Smith’s Hong Kong arm to join newly established Hong Kong firm Howse Williams Bowers (HWB).

HWB was established by three of Reed Smith Richards Butler’s founding partners – Chris Howse, Chris Williams and Kevin Bowers (20 December 2011) – and has been in operation since 1 January 2012.

In addition to the three founding partners, David Kan has also swapped partnership at Reed Smith for a role at the new firm. Bernard Murphy, a senior associate at Reed Smith, has been offered a partner position at HWB. Both Kan and Murphy focus primarily on medic-legal issues, acting for healthcare professionals such as doctors, dentists and nurses.

The new firm now consists of five partners and 20 lawyers. Its key practice areas are maritime and commercial dispute resolution as well as corporate and commercial law, with particular expertise in medico-legal law.

The majority of the 50 staff who jumped ship to the new firm had worked at Richards Butler’s Hong Kong office prior to its merger with Reed Smith in 2008. HWB is likely to make lateral hires in the near future, as partner Chris Howse noted that the firm has been approached by a number of experienced legal practitioners in Hong Kong who are interested in joining.

Reed Smith declined to comment. The firm’s Hong Kong office remains a 100-lawyer practice after the exodus. It has 25 partners in Hong Kong, 11 of whom focus on litigation and dispute resolution.