Legal Business (UK) Rounds Up Asia News For The Week

Here’s what they are saying this week

The past week has seen global top three firm Latham & Watkins hire Vinson & Elkins’ former China co-head David Blumental in Hong Kong, as Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) takes on DLA Piper’s Singapore corporate head Sheela Moorthy and big six Australian firm Clayton Utz ends its association in Hong Kong with Haley & Co.

Blumental’s practice covers cross-border M&A, joint ventures, project development and financing, and private equity investments focusing on oil and gas, LNG, infrastructure and mining. He has worked in China, North and South America, Africa, Russia and the CIS, Southeast Asia and Australia.

The oil and gas partner relocated to Hong Kong after Vinson & Elkins closed its Shanghai office in August last year, as energy specialist Tju Liang Chua left the firm to join US rival Sidley Austin in Singapore.

‘As we continue to position ourselves as one of the leading global oil and gas firms David has a unique blend of Asian experience and knowledge that makes him an exciting and important addition to our existing Asian energy and natural resources team,’ said David Miles, chair of Lathams’ Asia practice and a partner in the firm’s Hong Kong office.

Elsewhere NRF, which last month had its Singapore qualifying foreign legal practice (QFLP) licence extended for another five years, has bulked up its presence in the region with the hire of Moorthy, who becomes the fourth partner exit from DLA’s Singapore office in two years.

Moorthy has over 20 years’ experience working on cross-border transactions in Singapore, Indonesia, India, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.

QFLPs, which enable law firms to practice some Singapore law, are highly sought after and held by only nine international law firms in total, despite 23 applying in 2012.

‘Her dual qualification in England and Singapore is significant for the practice, and her experience in the energy, life sciences and technology sectors makes her a great fit for our team and our clients,’ said Jeff Smith, head of NRF’s Southeast Asia practice.

Meanwhile, Clayton Utz has called time on its association with Hong Kong firm Haley & Co after four years. Chief executive partner Darryl McDonough said the move reflected the evolution of Clayton Utz’s international strategy and its focus on being Australia’s top-tier independent law firm. This comment follows recent tie-ups between peer group firms such as Freehills, Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Blake Dawson with global firms Herbert Smith, King & Wood (and subsequently SJ Berwin) and Ashurst respectively.

‘With the changes in the legal services market we have developed a clear strategic focus on being Australia’s pre-eminent top-tier independent law firm with deep relationships with a comprehensive network of “best in market” law firms in key international jurisdictions. The success of that clear strategic focus led us to a mutual agreement with Haley & Co to withdraw from our association,’ said McDonough.

Glenn Haley, the senior partner of Haley & Co, said that the end of the association will have no effect on the firm’s Hong Kong office. The association is due to end on June 30.