In 2011 a large number of US firms took on Hong Kong law capability through lateral hires.
David Eich, Kirkland & Ellis
Among them, Kirkland & Ellis’s expansion was easily the most ambitious and market-shaking. The firm hired eight partners and a large number of associates from rivals Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Latham & Watkins and Allen & Overy. The firm’s head of Asia equity practice David Eich, also founding partner of the Hong Kong office, is the mastermind and visionary behind this spectacular local push, rumoured to involve an investment of more than $20m. With the appointments Kirkland has not only acquired a Hong Kong law capability, but it has also built up a broader top-end corporate practice, including capital markets. Many consider this a gamble, but Eich and his firm are not betting on hot air, as China’s economy is forecast to overtake the US’ by 2020, while Asia’s GDP is expected to account for more than half the world’s GDP by 2050.
Teresa Ko, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Having spent 24 years with Freshfields Teresa Ko is not only the cornerstone of the firm’s China practice, but also one of the pre-eminent veterans of the Hong Kong IPO market. She took on the newly created role of China chair on 1 May 2011 and was elected to the firm’s global partnership council at the same time. In her first year at the helm the volatile environment in Hong Kong’s capital markets and the departure of five partners from Freshfields’ China capital markets team posed substantial challenges. However, Ko’s leadership, technical expertise and perseverance helped the firm weather the storm. In the second half of the year, when the Hong Kong IPO market was particularly quiet, Ko and her team pulled off a number of major IPOs, including that of luxury jewellery chain Chow Tai Fook, the $1.9bn IPO of New China Life Insurance and the $1.7bn IPO of Citic Securities. Ko also serves as chair of the Hong Kong Exchange Listing Committee.
Poh Lee Tan, Baker & McKenzie
Poh Lee Tan, who joined Baker & McKenzie’s Hong Kong office in 1985, has become a renowned M&A and private equity lawyer in the region. In addition to her rich array of practice experience she has been an integral part of the firm’s Asia-Pacific management. Tan served on the firm’s global executive committee from 2005 to 2010 and as chair of its Asia-Pacific regional council from 2008 to 2010. Since November 2010 she has taken on a more challenging and potentially crucial role as managing partner of the Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Vietnam offices. In October 2011 Tan played host to the firm’s 700 partners from around the world during the annual global partners meeting in Beijing. This was the first time a major international firm had held such a meeting in China – an indication of the significance of Tan’s mission – to translate China’s economic miracle into the firm’s global well-being.
Miranda Leung, Slaughter and May
Fluent in both English and Chinese, Slaughter and May’s London partner Miranda Leung is a shining light among the City’s financing practices, particularly in light of the strong growth in loans and financing facilities provided by Chinese banks in the global markets. Leung has been involved in a number of high-profile transactions in recent years that have significant Asian elements. Highlights include acting for China Construction Bank in providing a $200m acquisition finance facility for Geely Sweden to finance its acquisition of the Volvo Group and advising the joint venture established between INEOS and PetroChina International in obtaining $1bn of revolving credit facility from Bank of China. With the establishment of Slaughters’ Beijing office two years ago and the recent shake-up in its Greater China team, Leung is well positioned to assist Chinese companies and banks in their involvement in foreign investments, acquisitions and financings across Europe.
Ling Wang, King & Wood
King & Wood managing partner Ling Wang is a reputable banking and financial lawyer in China. But what has kept the leader of China’s most prestigious law firm busiest in the past year is its high-profile tie-up with Australian firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques. Wang, a key member of the firm’s deal team, played a crucial role in leading the merger talks and negotiations with Mallesons. With the tremendous effort and coordination Wang and her team put into this development project, her firm sealed the deal with Mallesons at the end of 2011. The combination will create an international firm with 380 partners and 1,800 lawyers in March under the brand of King & Wood. This is the first time a Chinese firm has achieved such a close tie-up with a major Western rival, blazing a trail in the internationalisation of Chinese firms. Wang’s leadership and execution capability have been essential ingredients in this success.
Christine Wong, Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
Christine Wong, with 22 years’ legal and regulatory experience, made a significant change in her career trajectory in 2010, the year in which Hong Kong’s stock exchange (HKEx) become its position as the world’s largest listings market by fundraising size. Previously a consultant with Linklaters for
nine years, Wong’s decision to join Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the holding company of the HKEx, as head of legal services and chief counsel was driven by the many interesting and challenging facets of the exchange’s work.
In the past 18 months she has played a key role in the organisation’s new business initiatives, including OTC derivatives clearing, the construction of the Next Generation Data Centre and the setting up of a market data hub on the mainland. In light of the global regulatory reforms triggered by the financial crisis and the gradual internationalisation of China’s currency, the Renminbi, Wong will be an ever more important adviser as her company adapts to, and manages, change.
Huen Wong, Fried Frank
Huen Wong has been particularly busy of late. The managing partner of Fried Frank’s Hong Kong office, which he helped set up in 2006, has also led the Hong Kong Law Society as president, pushing for initiatives to increase the competitiveness of the local legal industry such as tightening the ties between Hong Kong firms and their mainland counterparts and introducing the LLP structure to facilitate the growth of local firms. In June 2011 Wong stepped down from the post but continues to play a senior mentoring role for the society.
At the same time, Wong became an of counsel at Fried Frank due to his commitment to, and passion for, public duties. He currently serves as president of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, is a member of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission and a member of the board of the Airport Authority, and a council member of the Institute of Directors among other public appointments. Like we said, a