China > Legal market overview
With a slight slowdown in growth, coupled with pricing issues, concerns over Europe and a change of government in process, market confidence has dipped in China. Consequently, closing deals in China has become increasingly tough. Nonetheless, legal practices in China have noted the increased interest of Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and banks in Europe, where they are looking to buy quality assets at reduced prices due to economic circumstances. Furthermore, China’s demand for overseas energy and natural resources remains keen; and the country’s lawyers have also enjoyed significant activity in the renewable sectors, both inbound and outbound. Standout energy transactions include Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP’s representation of China Three Gorges Corporation on its €2.69bn acquisition of a 21.35 per cent stake in EDP, the largest-ever Chinese investment in Europe.
News of the year for China’s legal market involved domestic firm King & Wood combining with Australian outfit Mallesons Stephen Jaques in March 2012 to become King & Wood Mallesons. The Beijing office now includes over 90 partners and 460 fee earners, with the combined firm housing over 1,000 lawyers in Greater China. Since the merger, the firm has continued to recruit. Reinforcing the firm’s energy and resources capability, the firm’s Beijing office welcomed partner Dirk Walker and of counsel Dina Yin from Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP and Linklaters respectively. In addition, Shanghai-based Simon Meng, the former head of Herbert Smith LLP’s China M&A practice, joined King & Wood Mallesons in Shanghai.
High-profile movements at foreign firms include Dechert LLP (Beijing Representative Office)’s former Beijing managing partner Henry Wang joining JSM, and White & Case LLP’s recruitment of Alex Zhang from Jones Day as head of China M&A. Movement at domestic practices included Kirkland & Ellis International LLP’s former senior Chinese corporate partner Xiaoyang Li returning to Jun He Law Offices in Beijing; Li was one of the first senior-ranking partners to join a Western practice from a Chinese one. Two firms have opened new offices on the mainland: Silicon Valley firm, Gunderson Dettmer LLP, launched in Beijing with the hire of Chris Terry and Steven Liu from DLA Piper; and Loeb & Loeb LLP brought over Roger Peng from Paul Hastings LLP for its new Beijing outpost. Chinese firms are also venturing overseas, with Zhong Lun Law Firm launching its London office in 2012.