LawFuel – The English law firms continue to aggressively export their services, with the major UK firm Lovells launching an alliance with nine Chinese counterparts. Foreign practitioners are restricted in China.
The 10 firms will collaborate in areas ranging from mergers and acquisitions to intellectual property in an arrangement crafted to comply with Chinese prohibitions on profit-sharing between local and international firms.
The initiative shows how London-based law firms are gambling on building up large global networks of offices and alliances to win cross-border business and establish English law as the rule of choice for many international deals.
Crispin Rapinet, Lovells’ Asia regional managing partner, said the initiative, known as the Sino-Global Legal Alliance, would allow the firm to exploit the “growing market for nationwide services as well as for out-bound work”. Lovells said the alliance would include firms across China in locations such as Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.
Lovells is one of a slew of large western law firms, mainly from Britain and the US, that are finding ways of expanding in China despite rules that reserve some areas of legal work for Chinese lawyers alone.
Research published in November by PwC, the accounting firm, found three-quarters of the top 25 British-based firms had at least one wholly-owned office in China, up from one-third in 2004.
Lovells said it was becoming increasingly common for both domestic and international counsel to be involved in legal work in China in areas ranging from offshore share offerings to product recalls over toy safety.
Han Deyun, managing partner of one alliance member, the Chongqing-based Solton & Partners, said the initiative would allow the Chinese firms to augment their local leadership “with the technical capacities of an international firm to attract and discharge work.”
China is one of a number of leading emerging economies being lobbied by the British government and legal industry representatives to scrap restrictions on foreign lawyers.