A dozen partners from leading Chinese firms have split off to set up their own firm.
The new firm, AnJie Law Firm, will be led by antitrust specialist Zhan Hao, currently an executive committee member at Beijing's Grandall Law Firm, as managing partner. Two other partners will serve on the AnJie's executive committee: former Zhong Lun Law Firm antitrust partner Michael Gu and former Beijing Mingtai Law Firm managing partner He Yu.
The moves were first reported Wednesday by mergermarket's Policy and Regulatory Report.
Gu says AnJie has hired 50 lawyers so far, including 12 partners, and will start operations in November. According to Gu, the new recruits include partners Chen Bin, Cheng Bing and Li Xiuzhe from Zhong Lun; partners Zheng Xilin and Huang Zaizai from Grandall; and some partners from Beijing firm Zhong Lun W&D as well.
Gu says Zhan is expected to bring a further 40 lawyers with him from Grandall.
Antitrust will be a major focus of the new firm. It is a relatively new practice area in China, with a competition law only coming into effect in the country in 2008. But it has quickly become a lucrative practice area for Chinese firms. Though Chinese authorities have only blocked or blessed a handful of major acquisitions in China itself, they also review global mergers for their impact on the China market; international parties on big deals are keen to hire the right lawyers to avoid delays.
In addition to antitrust, Gu says AnJie will advise on joint ventures, insurance, intellectual property and other foreign investment-related work. According to Gu, the firm expects to have a mainly international client base, including financial institutions, insurance companies and investment funds investing in China.
Gu says the firm has plans to expand into Shanghai and Shenzhen, and will also seek out potential alliances and relationships with law firms in the U.S. and the U.K. But he says the firm has no desire to pursue a King & Wood Mallesons-style merger.
Indeed, Gu suggests AnJie partners were looking for the opposite in terms of size and scope. Grandall has almost 600 lawyers while Zhong Lun has almost 500.
"We want to remain a Chinese firm," he says. "All our partners have come together because we want to work in a streamlined environment. The internal structure of our firm is important to us. Large firms often have too loose a management."