Davis Polk & Wardwell has poached another rising star from the Magic Circle to join its burgeoning Hong Kong law practice. The New York-based firm announced Monday that Paul Chow, Beijing office head for Linklaters, will be joining its Hong Kong office next May.
The firm generally has been regarded as conservative when it comes to recruiting lateral partners. But Davis Polk has moved aggressively to assemble a Hong Kong law group in recent months. The firm, which previously practiced solely U.S. law in Asia, announced it was launching a Hong Kong practice in August. At that time, Davis Polk recruited two partners for the Hong Kong practice -- Antony Dapiran, formerly the Beijing managing partner for Freshfields, and Bonnie Y. T. Chan, who had been the head of initial public offerings for the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
In recent years, Hong Kong has been a top destination for IPOs, especially of large Chinese state-owned enterprises. Davis Polk this year represented one such SOE, Agricultural Bank of China, in one of the biggest IPOs ever, raising over $22 billion. U.S. firms still play a major role in such listings because global investors typically insist that the biggest deals meet Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure requirements. But many firms are establishing Hong Kong law practices as a hedge against the future.
In addition to Davis Polk, Shearman & Sterling and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy also launched Hong Kong practices this year.
"We've really made up our mind about Asia, Hong Kong, and China in particular, and we want to do it right and compete at the highest, level,” says William F. Barron, Davis Polk's Hong Kong-based Asia head.
Chow joined Linklaters' Hong Kong office in 2006 from Slaughter and May, where he also had been a partner. He moved to Beijing in 2007, where he has specialized in capital markets and mergers and acquisitions. Chow and Dapiran both were prominently featured in our February feature on the "New China Hands" -- the next generation of China practice leaders.
The recruitment of both by Davis Polk is sure to worry the Magic Circle firms. Owing to Hong Kong's history as a former British colony, U.K. firms have long had the top Hong Kong capital markets practices. But that has now made them the favorite recruitment ground for top Wall Street firms eager to expand into Hong Kong law. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett and Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton are widely expected to follow suit in the coming months.
Chow’s May start date is owing to the lengthy notice periods typical in the U.K. Though many partners take "gardening leave," during this time, Chow is expected to continue working on client matters for Linklaters.This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.