Last month, the Chinese law firm Fangda Partners poached real estate partner Maria Wang from Morrison & Foerster in Shanghai. At first glance, the hire might not seem all that remarkable in an age when partners move from firm to firm all the time. But this was not just another lateral move. Wang, who had been a partner with the U.S. firm since 2014, is the sixth partner Fangda has lured away from a large global firm in the past year.
And Fangda is only one of several elite Chinese firms that are on a recruitment tear that targets senior lawyers from global firms. Throughout 2018, nine Chinese law firms hired 22 partners who most recently practiced at global firms, according to an analysis conducted by Law.com’s The Asian Lawyer of 228 partner-level hires recorded across Asia during the 12 months ended Dec. 31, 2018.
The 22 partners
more than tripled the seven moves from international firms to Chinese firms recorded in a 14-month period ended February 2016. And half of the 22 lawyers had already made partner before moving to Chinese firms, whereas in 2015-16, all seven lawyers made the jump to partner by moving from an international firm to a Chinese firm.
The Chinese firms making most of these hires—Fangda, Han Kun Law Offices, Jingtian & Gongcheng and Commerce & Finance (Tongshang)—already have sound reputations in the market and are financially capable of making more ambitious hires. Firms such as Fangda and Haiwen & Partners have traditionally hired lawyers with global firm experience and offer a shorter partnership track. But they are now willing to invest in more senior hires as they grow to compete with global players for more premium work.
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