Morgan Lewis celebrated last month its first anniversary in Hong Kong, the firm’s 30th office* worldwide. During the past four years, the firm has expanded its presence in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore with new locations and significant lateral hires.
Our offices across Asia are closely integrated with the rest of the firm globally, with each strategic opening and lateral hire deepening our ability to serve clients in cross-border business transactions and international disputes. In addition to focusing on the effective integration of our Asia-based colleagues, we continue to advise companies doing business across the region on complex cross-border M&A transactions, capital markets financing, private equity investments, investment management regulatory and transactional work, real estate, intellectual property protection, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and corporate compliance, and litigation and arbitration disputes.
“We have never aspired to grow just to be bigger,” said firm Chair Jami McKeon. “These expansions brought great depth and breadth to our firm and our clients, and it is the integration of both the people and the practices that has made them successful.”
In this Q&A, Hong Kong partner Maurice Hoo shares his thoughts on the firm’s trajectory in Asia and what clients are watching.
How has Morgan Lewis grown recently in Asia?
One year ago, we established a presence in Hong Kong, giving us a world-class team of corporate lawyers not only in Hong Kong but in Beijing and Shanghai. Capping off our concerted multi-year focus on Asia, this step resulted in a tremendous expansion of our practices in this critical part of the world. Our Hong Kong team has grown further in the past year and has established itself as a driving force in our global capital markets, corporate, and private equity practices.
In addition to the corporate team that first joined a year ago, the Hong Kong office has since added a dispute resolution team (which is handling litigation in Hong Kong for our multinational clients headquartered in the United States and elsewhere) and an investment management team.
Our growth in Hong Kong is reflected in our exciting recent move into a brand-new office in the financial heart of Hong Kong’s business district.
The opening of the Hong Kong office came on the heels of significant expansion in China in 2016 when Morgan Lewis added a team of more than 25 legal professionals in Shanghai, greatly expanding our capabilities in M&A, private equity, real estate, fund formation, FCPA, and international disputes. In 2015, the firm secured a key base of operations in the thriving business center of Singapore with its novel combination with The Stamford Law Firm, which was the first law firm in the city-state to fully integrate with a global law firm. The successful merger produced a transactional, litigation, and arbitration powerhouse with the ability to practice across all legal service areas in Singapore and across Southeast Asia. And in 2014, we significantly grew our Tokyo office with the addition of a leading asset management practice, giving us a market-leading investment management practice in Japan.
With so many large groups arriving, how has Morgan Lewis made sure that effective collaboration is at the core of this growth?
As we grow, our shared commitment to collaborate across the firm has enabled us to succeed exponentially. Integrating the Stamford Group; our new colleagues in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong; and new lawyers in every office while improving client service and operational excellence has required successful collaboration at a very high level. Over the past year, we have had three meetings bringing together all of our Asia partners with the full leadership of the firm, and our associates have been involved in integration programs both in Asia and the United States. Our practice groups are led globally and work together daily across borders. In addition, our integration has been accelerated by the firm’s focus on industry groups, which are vital to the representation of global clients. Bringing together lawyers across practice groups and geographies that really understand a specific industry brings incredible value to our clients’ businesses and creates natural working groups among our lawyers.
And that collaborative approach is also what has allowed us to broaden and deepen our relationships with our clients. Last summer, BTI Consulting Group named Morgan Lewis one of three firms with the “best collaboration.” We see this play out every day as our partners in Asia are leading or supporting key cross-border matters for clients across the firm. We can now assist global clients in nearly every area where they might have a challenge or opportunity in Asia, in addition to advising Asia-based clients facing issues globally—from intellectual property to investment management to complex litigation to global antitrust issues.
What kind of work is the Hong Kong office handling for clients?
Since joining the firm, our Hong Kong corporate team—working together with Beijing and Shanghai teams and colleagues globally —has completed more than 65 private equity transactions with an aggregate deal value exceeding $4.4 billion; executed more than 50 cross-border M&A transactions (collaborating with numerous offices worldwide in inbound and outbound transactions); closed multiple IPOs in a diverse set of industries ranging from education, utilities, and construction, to automobiles & components; and collaborated extensively with our Singapore colleagues in dual listings on the Hong Kong and Singapore exchanges.
In what ways is Morgan Lewis making a commitment to Asia?
Success in the highly competitive, complex, and fast-evolving Asia legal market requires well integrated teams of elite lawyers, not simply a presence in the region. Like many of our most successful global clients in a diverse set of industries, we marry teamwork with expertise, international perspectives with local practices, and firm commitment with personal grit. It is not a market for law firms (or any business for that matter) to dabble in, but with the strength and collaborative culture of our firm, we are in an excellent position to build in this market and serve our clients well.
Is Morgan Lewis planning further expansion in the region?
Our growth is driven by what our clients need and where they need us to be. It’s obvious from the volume of work our Asia offices are already engaged in with multinational companies that markets in Asia are key components of their own growth strategies, so I expect it will continue to be for us as well.
*Our Beijing and Shanghai offices operate as representative offices of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. In Hong Kong, Morgan Lewis operates through Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which is a separate Hong Kong general partnership registered with The Law Society of Hong Kong as a registered foreign law firm operating in Association with Luk & Partners.