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UK law firms add to their Asian outposts

Clifford Chance has become the latest UK law firm to announce the appointment of partners in Asia.

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Of the firm’s 23 new partners, six are in Hong Kong, four in China and two in Singapore, according to a statement announcing their elevation to partner status. Two are in the Gulf, another growth area for law firms.

Clifford Chance is the UK’s largest law firm and a member of Britain’s so-called legal Magic Circle, and specialises in banking, corporate, tax, real estate and financial services law as well as litigation and dispute resolution.

Clifford Chance managing partner David Childs said the “significant number” of promotions in Asia this year by the firm reflected “the vibrant nature of our business in the region”, as well as the enthusiasm of the various lawyers in question.

The Clifford Chance promotions were in addition to 14 new partners admitted to the firm as a result of its recent merger with Chang Pistilli & Simmons and Cochrane Lishman Carson Luscombe in Australia, the firm said. It now has a total of 577 partners worldwide.

As reported in this month’s International Adviser magazine, London and New York-based, private-client-focussed Withers opened a “pathfinder” office three years ago in Hong Kong with a handful of US and UK tax lawyers, and now has around 20 lawyers providing international tax, trusts and family law advice, according to regional managing partner Joe Field.

This has made it “the biggest private client firm in Asia”, Field said.

In January, Clifford Chance opened a Qatar office to supplement its Dubai office, which first opened in 1975. At the time, the firm’s Gulf managing partner, Graham Lovett, said the Qatar office had been opened "in response to our clients’ requests for a presence on the ground" there. A few weeks later, McGrigors, another UK law firm, also opened a Qatar office, its first outpost outside Britain.

Other law firms that have been expanding in Asia and the Gulf include Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Allen & Overy. Walkers has seven offices worldwide, including one in Hong Kong, one in Singapore and one in Dubai.

The growing international nature of business and individuals’ personal lives is helping to drive the trend for law firms to expand globally, both organically and through acquisition.

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