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Survey sees UK firms investing in Asia

Posted by: Laurence Simons 28/03/13

The Asia-Pacific region has become an important area for law firm investment over recent years, growing in significance in direct correlation to the shrinking of the European market.

According to a new survey from Legal Week, 57 per cent of law firms now have at least one global practice head, department co-chair or deputy chair based in Asia, with the majority of these appointed since 2010.

While in the past it may have been enough to simply form a partnership with a local firm and hope for the best, this study suggests that companies are now taking a more direct role in building a presence on the continent.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Clifford Chance and Herbert Smith Freehills each now have two or more international practice heads based permanently in the Asia-Pacific, the report found.

At Freshfields, global arbitration co-head Lucy Reed relocated from New York to Hong Kong last May and global investigations co-head Geoff Nicholas moved from London to Hong Kong last summer.

Moves such as these make it clear that traditional centres of legal power are shifting, with the high levels of investment and business growth in Asia pushing it ahead of its European and American counterparts.

Mark Hyde, global head of restructuring and insolvency at Clifford Chance, formally moved from London to Hong Kong at the start of the month.

He said: "It's a reflection of the fact that we believe we can grow our business more quickly in Asia than we can in other parts of the world. We've invested a lot in Asia as evidenced by our last partner promotions round. At the same time, you also need senior people out here."

As the economic travails suffered by European countries continues, with Cyprus the latest nation to fall into trouble, it seems that Asia will emerge as an even more attractive destination for law firms keen to be where the action is.