Mayer Brown enters “new era” in Hong Kong with firm split

updated on 07 May 2024

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Global law firm Mayer Brown International LLP has revealed plans to split its Hong Kong and Chinese operations from the rest of its international network, making it the latest firm to consider its presence in China amid tensions with the US and weakness in the Chinese market.

The firm claims to currently have 170 lawyers in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

The move, which is expected to take place by the end of the year, will see the firm’s Chinese operations revert to operate under Johnson Stokes & Master (JSM) – the Hong Kong law firm that merged with Mayer Brown in 2008. This partnership will enable the US-based firm to continue to operate in Hong Kong and mainland China, with a focus on areas of practice (eg, banking, construction, education and technology) that align with the firm’s strategy internationally and in Asia.

Should the move receive approval from the Law Society of Hong Kong, JSM is expected to work independently by next year, focusing on its unique position as a home-grown full-service law firm in Hong Kong.

The move is in line with the firm’s strategic plan, which “prioritises the development of core products and industries that are most relevant to our clients in the world’s leading global financial centres, including Hong Kong”, according to Jon Van Corp, Mayer Brown chair.

Van Corp added: “The Hong Kong partnership has consistently been recognized as the leading full-service law firm in Hong Kong and is uniquely positioned to continue this legacy in Hong Kong and Mainland China.”

Mayer Brown isn’t the first firm to reduce its presence in Hong Kong and China. In October last year, LawCareers.Net reported Linklaters LLP’s plans to cut 15% of its lawyers in China and it’s been reported that firms such as Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP are also looking to end or consolidate their Chinese operations.