A firm consistently expanding and strengthening its practice, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP has established its reputation for providing ‘considerable expertise in private client related matters’; placing itself at the pinnacle of the Hong Kong market. The firm has also bolstered its family offering with the addition of Lisa Wong to the existing presence of Patrick Chan, covering all aspects of family law including high value divorce proceedings and complex custody disputes. The recruitment of now team head Ian Devereux and Silvia On from Stephenson Harwood was a coup on the private client side, joining the highly experienced Jeffrey Lee to form a comprehensive practice. Devereux is renowned for his expertise on issues ranging from wills and probate to complex trust structures, advising ultra-high-net-worth individuals and international families. On acts for many of the same clients in a similar vein, bringing specialist knowledge of the growing philanthropy side of private wealth including establishing charities and applying for Hong Kong tax exemptions. The multi-jurisdictional capabilities of the firm is epitomised by Lee’s practice, offering extensive tax planning expertise to international clients, especially as it relates to UK tax and investment issues.
Private Client and Family in Hong Kong
Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
Other key lawyers:
Silvia On; Jeffrey Lee; Lisa Wong; Patrick Chan; Ian Yeung; Jessica Leung
‘Lisa Wong has been handling my divorce proceedings for the last three years, she is particularly experienced in this area.’
‘Jeffrey Lee is outstanding. He wears his knowledge lightly, is highly committed and completely client-centric in his approach.’
‘Lisa Wong is reliable and a pleasure to work with.’
One of the leading firms in this field, Stephenson Harwood has an exceptionally experienced private client practice, drawing from extensive expertise at their disposal in Hong Kong, Asia Pacific and across the globe. At the regional level, the team is particularly renowned for its capability to provide comprehensive advice relating to trusts, estates and multi-jurisdictional taxes; the latter being significantly bolstered by team head Kevin Lee’s extensive knowledge of Canadian and UK tax law. Lee is highly respected for the ‘holistic’ guidance he provides regarding the gamut of wealth matters, being sought after to resolve the most high profile, legally complex and multi-jurisdictional trust disputes. The addition of Wei Kang from DLA Piper in 2021 has helped balance some significant departures of the same year, bringing extensive experience of family trusts, tax compliance and succession planning. A crucial member of the team is associate Tze-wei Ng , who brings detailed knowledge of issues such as ESG and philanthropy, which are increasingly expanding matters in the Hong Kong market.
Other key lawyers:
Wei Kang; Tze-wei Ng; Peter Hodson; Karies Lam
‘Tze-wei Ng is quick, clear and responsive.’
‘Stephenson Harwood is an adaptive and intelligent law firm.’
- Advised one of the largest PRC banks in setting up an onshore trust structure from a Canadian tax perspective and a general common law trust perspective. Also devised a procedure manual to guide the PRC bank trustee in administering the trust according to the usual practice in the common law jurisdictions.
- Advised a UK client on structuring a Singaporean trust to acquire a Monaco company which holds a real property in France. Acted as project manager on the deal and oversaw the multi-jurisdictional aspects of acquisition. Modified the trust deed to minimise the commercial aspects of the trustee powers in order to legally preserve certain French tax benefits associated with the personal use property.
- Advising an ultra-high-net-worth individual who owns significant real estate in Hong Kong, Canada and the US with significant pregnant capital gains through a complex corporate and trust structure; working closely with his family offices in Vancouver, Canada and Hong Kong, as well as his corporate tax advisors to prepare a restructuring plan.
Withers offers extraordinary experience across the spectrum of private client and family matters, having established themselves as a pre-eminent firm in this sphere. As well as a dominating presence in Hong Kong and the Asia Pacific region, the firm draws from a particularly impressive international network to enhance their cross-border capacity. On the private client side, the team guides high-net-worth individuals and family offices through all their personal and business needs, utilising the firm’s multidisciplinary capabilities to offer advice on overlapping areas such as immigration, litigation real estate and pre-IPO planning. The team is led by Katie Graves , who offers specialist expertise when establishing private trust company structures and handling relevant fiduciary and governance issues. The depth of the team is illustrated by the presence of two leading individuals notably Timothy Burns and Tim George . Burns is a highly experienced tax and trusts lawyer, especially as it relates to the US market, assisting clients with complex tax, investment and citizenship issues. George is especially adept at advising clients on business needs, ranging from continuity and succession to investment treaty planning. Wei Zhang utilises her PRC background to explain intricate offshore trust and US tax concepts to Chinese individuals and families. Jocelyn Tsao is a strong presence on the family side, appearing pro bono in groundbreaking cases on same-sex partnerships and the future of LGBTQ rights in Hong Kong.
Other key lawyers:
Tim George; Timothy Burns; Wie Zhang; Jocelyn Tsao; Samantha Gershon; Billy Ko; Deirdre Fu
- Advised the non-biological mother of children of a same sex couple with having equal parental rights not to limit guardianship rights, joint custody, and shared care and control over their children in Hong Kong.
Hugill & Ip
The team at Hugill & Ip has ‘great capability over the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious private client work’, from wealth and estate planning to shareholder disputes and will enforcement. The firm is also active in the family sphere, guiding high-net-worth individuals in Hong Kong and Greater China through issues such as nuptial agreements, divorce and adoption. Team head Alfred Ip has established a strong regional reputation, especially for his expertise regarding trusts and estate planning, with clients claiming he is ‘very adept at dealing with probate matters’.
Other key lawyers:
Geraint Ho; Raphael Wong; Jacqueline Cheng
‘Hugill & Ip stands out as they have deep knowledge and experience in private client and estate administration related litigation. This is a very specialised area where there is relatively little choice in terms of selection of competent legal advisors.’
‘The team has great capability over the spectrum of contentious and non-contentious private client work, including working on cross-border matters.’
‘I would classify Hugill & Ip private client team as a dream team, for both advisory and contentious practice.’
‘Alfred Ip is the best probate and estates solicitor in Hong Kong. He is excellent at private client and family work, especially matrimonial. He is very professional and clear with clients, unafraid to fight for the best results.’
‘Alfred Ip is a pre-eminent practitioner of private client and contentious estate and trust cases. He has remarkable client management skills and technical litigation prowess. He consistently achieves results desired by clients, while being extremely user-friendly at the same time.’
‘Hugill & Ip is one of the, if not the, leading firms in relation to contentious probate, trusts and estates cases in Hong Kong.’
‘Client focused, result driven and strong knowledge in the relevant practice area of probate and family law.’
- Successfully challenged the DoJ on an issue related to probate in a same-sex marriage.
- Successfully struck a deal for an estate in a compulsory sale of property with Kerry Properties.
Zhong Lun Law Firm
Zhong Lun Law Firm consists of ‘extremely seasoned’ private client lawyers, covering the gamut of multi-jurisdictional wealth issues involving tax, trusts, securities regulation, contentious estate challenges and many others. The firm has established a broad yet intricate network in the Asia Pacific region, utilising Shanghai based offices to provide a strong Greater China practice. The private client offering extends beyond the regional level, with team head Clifford Ng bringing an abundance of expertise relating to investments and asset protection laws in jurisdictions across the globe. The extensive litigation and dispute resolution experience possessed by Dorothy Siron is an asset on both the private client and family sides, assisting individuals and families with contentious estate disputes and child abduction proceedings. Chloe Leung has recently been promoted to partner and has continued to grow her reputation, advising numerous multi-jurisdictional families on tax-efficient estate plans and asset restructuring.
Other key lawyers:
Dorothy Siron; Chloe Leung; Frederick Hui
‘Zhong Lun is particularly strong in Hong Kong, PRC, and Canada tax, trusts and securities matters. The team is brilliant in handling complicated cross-border matters and I will definitely continue to refer clients to them.’
‘Zhong Lun Hong Kong private client team is well known for their expertise in cross-border estate planning, trusts, tax and matrimonial matters. They are particularly known for their PRC and Canada capabilities.
‘Zhong Lun Law Firm offers a more extensive range of private client services compared with other firms.’
‘The Hong Kong team at Zhong Lun has a broad and in-depth practical and technical experience in private client matters, from PRC and Hong Kong tax and trust laws to securities and regulatory issues; I greatly appreciate their ability to provide a “one stop shop” service.’
‘They provide uniquely insightful advice in resolving complex cross border issues and disclosure and reporting issues.’
- Acting as family office and personal counsel to a private real estate developer, with assets over USD8 billion; on cross-border tax, trusts, wealth management, family, immigration, disclosure and compliance, litigation, loan financing and M&A matters.
- Advising a Chinese billionaire entrepreneur on post-IPO trust restructuring, cross-border tax, securities regulatory and compliance, family, asset protection, and disclosure matters.
The private client team at Baker McKenzie has harnessed the firm’s global reputation to build a well-established tax and wealth management team throughout Hong Kong and Greater China; acting on a broad array of issues from trust and tax planning to family law and governance matters, advising high-net-worth individuals and families. Team head Pierre Chan guides his clients through all their personal and business needs, with a particular focus on Hong Kong and regional succession planning, as well as tax advisory and dispute resolution.
Other key lawyers:
Steven Sieker; Michael Olesnicky
‘Baker McKenzie has a coordinated global practice in the international private client field and is generally seen as a or the global leader. This extends across a wide field including issues such as tax, trusts, probate and migration. Due to its unrivalled network of international offices, Hong Kong is very well placed to provide the requisite coordinated advice.’
‘The professionalism and expertise provided by Partner Pierre Chan would be something that differentiates Baker from competitors. When I worked with Pierre, he provided solid and practical advice in a clear and concise manner which is easy for clients to understand.’
‘Michael Olesnicky is the stand out high profile individual in this practice area in Hong Kong.’
A renowned firm in Hong Kong, Deacons draws on its multidisciplinary nature to construct a skilled private client and family practice; covering a wide scope of areas such as matrimonial law, vulnerable clients, contentious probate and tax and trusts. The addition of Sherlynn Chan and senior associate Hazel Wong from Stevenson, Wong & Co was a boost to the family offering, the former advising on complex matrimonial disputes including divorce, cohabitation and child custody. Cecilia Lau is also skilled regarding family matters and on the private client side and Stefano Mariani brings extensive tax and trusts experience when handling private wealth disputes, such as estate planning and trust restructuring.
Sherlynn Chan; Stefano Mariani
Other key lawyers:
Hazel Wong; Cecilia Lau
‘One key strength of this team is that they are strong in both family law and mental health law. With Hong Kong having a gradually ageing population, this is a key asset to many potential clients facing family disputes of various natures.’
‘Sherlynn Chan is a good private wealth specialist.’
‘Sherlynn Chan is vastly experienced in family law. I have a long-standing working relationship with Sherlynn; she is knowledgeable, meticulous and efficient. Despite being the head of this team, she remains very hands-on for her cases.’
2nd son of the late Henry Fok
English Schools Foundation – KGV School
- Acting for Ian Fok (the 2nd son of the late Henry Fok, a prominent figure in Hong Kong and Mainland China), the main party in very substantial and high profile actions brought by three of his siblings and involving the late Henry Fok’s Estate. A 60-day trial commenced in January 2022.
- Successfully acted for the English Schools Foundation, a statutory body charged with managing a number of prominent English-medium schools in Hong Kong in a High Court action to modify the terms of one of its tax-exempt scholarship funds.
Gall has developed a well-respected family practice within Hong Kong, advising on a broad range of sensitive family breakdown matters from divorce and complex financial claims to high-conflict custody disputes and relocation agreements. A client also commented that it has ‘a wonderful commitment to diversity’. The firm’s client base includes high-net-worth individuals, expatriates and pro bono work for non-profit organisations. Team head Caroline McNally is qualified in both Hong Kong and England & Wales, bringing an international dimension to her offering and advising on extremely complex cross-jurisdictional matters involving trusts, businesses and inherited wealth.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team are rightly highly respected in this area by their competitors and clients. They are known for their professionalism and integrity as well as their strategic approach to litigation.’
‘They have a wonderful commitment to diversity.’
They have excellent breadth and depth of experience; covering big money, multi party and the full range of cases.’
‘Kajal Aswani stands out. She is often the solicitor of choice where you need a reliable pair of hands on difficult cases. It is especially telling that she is often suggested by her competitors to represent trustees and third party intervenors.’
The private client and family team at Gibson Dunn benefits from the extensive litigation experience of team heads Elaine Chen and Brian Gilchrist, covering a broad range of wealth related matters from contentious trusts and probate to estate administration and mental incapacity. Chen advises high-net-worth individuals within Hong Kong and overseas, having specialist knowledge when it comes to tax and shareholder disputes.
Elaine Chen; Brian Gilchrist
Other key lawyers:
‘Brian Gilchrist is simply the best private client and family dispute litigator that I have encountered in Hong Kong; strategically savvy, massively experienced, and very highly regarded.’
‘I would have no hesitation using Brian Gilchrist and his team for a Hong Kong private client dispute matter, having regularly recommended them to others in practice.’
‘Brian Gilchrist’s client handling skill and knowledge of the Hong Kong private client market is second to none.’
‘The team is very competent in terms of their legal knowledge and insightful in their strategy formulation. The team is easy to work with and their senior and junior personnel all provide very good support to the counsel team.’
‘Unparalleled experience and exposure, populated by heavyweights like Brian Gilchrist and Elaine Chen’
‘Elaine Chen is the team leader and usually very involved and on top of things.’
Herbert Smith Freehills
With Richard Norridge leading the team from the London office and Gareth Thomas heading matters from Hong Kong, Herbert Smith Freehills draws expertise from its corporate and litigation departments, offering some of the wealthiest individuals and families in Greater China guidance through complex trust and probate disputes.
Gareth Thomas; Richard Norridge
‘The team always provides a Rolls Royce service, both to the client and also to counsel whom they instruct.’
‘There is always good team work, the client is kept fully informed and the merits and strategy are always thoroughly outlined in understandable language.’
‘Although based in London, Richard Norridge continues to contribute significantly to his Hong Kong clients; his knowledge in the field is most impressive.’
‘Gareth Thomas is a robust and realistic litigator.’
‘Richard Norridge is extremely resourceful and knowledgeable.’
The family law practice at Howse Williams comprises ‘a compact team with verve and imagination’, assisting high-net-worth individuals with complex disputes over nuptial deeds, international child abductions and related wealth matters of contentious probate and wills. Linda Heathfield leads the team, having spent close to three decades representing spouses and vulnerable children. Stacey Devoy has been meeting the growing trend of families in the Asia Pacific region seeking guidance on the governance of interpersonal and international family dynamics.
Linda Heathfield; Stacey Devoy
Other key lawyers:
Karen Lam; Victoria Ng; Stephanie Ng
‘Excellent communication within their team and collaboration with overseas colleagues.’
‘The team worked very well together to support my needs. Whether speaking directly to the partner, in this case Linda Heathfield, or to one of the team, I was confident in the flow of communications on all matters.’
‘Linda Heathfield is very clear and understands the challenges her clients face, consistently providing good judgement and guidance.’
‘Linda Heathfield was mindful and sensitive to my circumstances.’
‘Linda Heathfield and Karen Lam stand out as very knowledgable, genuinely caring, and smart with respect to predicting behaviours in others.’
Payne Clermont Velasco
Payne Clermont Velasco’s family and matrimonial lawyers are well respected in Hong Kong, regularly representing local and international clients on contentious and non-contentious family matters. Team heads Jaerey Velasco and Gregory Payne are prime examples, covering the gamut of divorce related issues from custody and asset distribution claims to child access and maintenance. On the contentious side, the firm has established a formidable reputation representing high-net-worth individuals in the Family Courts, often achieving settlements and avoiding litigation.
Gregory Payne; Jaerey Velasco
‘The team communicates extremely well with clients. They regularly anticipate issues, responses and action items; thinking strategically rather than just routinely so that each case gets appropriate direction.’
‘The firm has international staff and is adept in dealing with clients from all backgrounds. They are practical and efficient, and very knowledgable.’
‘Jaerey Velasco is a extremely hardworking conscientious partner. She goes above and beyond to make herself available for her clients, giving them support and guidance as needed. Experienced with a wide range of matrimonial/family law matters; knowledgeable and highly competent.’
‘Jaerey Velasco is a fantastic solicitor, highly respected and very experienced. She is great with clients, practical, and gives sensible, sound advice.’
Squire Patton Boggs
Squire Patton Boggs is a growing firm in the private client space, offering high-net-worth individuals and families expertise across the range of their private wealth needs; with specialist knowledge in regard to US tax issues and advising family offices. C0-head of the team is James Tsang, whose extensive knowledge of US tax law is utilised when handling his clients personal tax and estate planning for trusts and holding companies, minimising estate and inheritance taxes and avoiding US probate proceedings. As well as being an accomplished fund, trust and tax lawyer, team co-head Patricia Woo is particularly strong when advising family offices.
James Tsang; Patricia Woo
Other key lawyers:
Tanner De Witt
Tanner De Witt possesses considerable depth and breadth in terms of its private client and family practice, involved in both complex cross-border work as well as contentious and non-contentious domestic matters. The team has a particularly strong family offering, with Joanne Brown heading the family side and regularly instructed regarding nuptial agreements, child removal and access and requests for injunctive relief. Eddie Look also heads the team and is highly active on private client matters, advising a wide range of clients including trustees, executors and administrators. Mark Side also comes highly recommended.
Joanne Brown; Eddie Look; Mark Side
‘They have a truly well-rounded team, able to deal with the full gamut of family work. The partners have very different approaches and experiences, and are able to work off of that breadth of expertise.’
‘Tanner De Witt’s family law team is highly regarded in the sector. They are experienced and deliver a high level of service to their clients. They are very good at navigating family litigation, including complex cases, and also at avoiding contested litigation altogether.’
‘Joanne Brown’s team are some of the best family practitioners in Hong Kong, running cases with the minimum amount of conflict that is possible in their clients best interests.’
‘I have worked closely with Eddie Look on a number of matters and cannot praise his professionalism enough. He always makes himself available for an initial chat and his responses are thorough, clear and well-reasoned.’
‘Joanne Brown is a first class family lawyer, who always has time for her clients and can handle the toughest cases. She is both practical and strategic, and gets the best possible results.’