Magic Circle firm nears Chinese law practice launch

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Linklaters is close to becoming the first Magic Circle firm to launch a Chinese law practice, as the firm is about to finalise a “best friends” agreement in Shanghai.

Chris Holt, Linklaters China chief operating officer, told Legal Business that the “best friends” relationship is expected to be launched in the “next two to three months.” Linklaters expects outbound and high-end domestic work will become crucial for the firm’s business in China, Holt said. The ability to offer integrate Chinese law and international law into its offering in the country will become a competitive advantage for the firm both in China and around the world, he said.

More than two years in the making, the planned launch saw the London-headquartered global firm explore a merger with Chinese law firms Shanghai Capital Law & Partners and Shanghai Kai-Rong Law Firm in late 2015. The firm, which had been searching for a merger partner since the start of that year, called off the talks in April 2016.

Instead, the Linklaters partnership had decided that a spinoff would best serve the firm. Three partners and 16 lawyers will soon leave the firm to set up a new firm, which Linklaters will enter into an agreement with, Legal Business, The Lawyer, and Legal Week all report.

The deal will establish a joint operating office in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone after regulatory approval. The Shanghai FTZ scheme allows for foreign firms to practice local law if they form an association with a local firm or an independent practice in the FTZ.

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