Stephenson Harwood breaks with tradition in China

It seems that growth in China has been on the wish list of a number of firms in 2014, with firms including Linklaters mulling the idea of its own Chinese joint venture after the recently launched Shanghai free-trade zone liberalised the country’s legal services sector.

Which makes whatever is going on at Stephenson Harwood all the more mysterious. The firm has just bucked the trend of firms making headway into China by pulling the plug on its Guangzhou office.

It’s an unexpected move for Stephenson Harwood, which has orientated its international strategy towards growth in Asia over the past couple of years. Since last May, the firm has opened in Beijing, secured a licence to launch in Seoul, and struck up new formal ties with firms in Singapore and Myanmar.

However, it looks as if it’s not the end of the road for Stephenson Harwood’s activities in the south Chinese city of Guangzhou. The firm’s former colleagues in the city are in the process of setting up their own independent, which is expected to maintain a “close working relationship”.

Despite all the changes, perhaps an old-fashioned informal alliance is still the best way to make in-roads to the ever-changing Chinese market?

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