Legacy Bryan Cave’s Hong Kong team has left newly merged Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner just seven months after the trans-Atlantic merger was created and only two months after the firm announced an official combination in Hong Kong.
The firm’s leaders have been pushing to integrate the firms globally, but the Hong Kong departures suggest that in Asia integration may not be occurring without setbacks.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner confirmed that legacy Bryan Cave Hong Kong partners Kristi Swartz and Nigel Binnersley have both left the newly merged firm, along with their team of three associates, to set up their own practice. Swartz previously led the legacy Bryan Cave Hong Kong office and focuses on corporate finance and securities. Binnersley is a litigation partner.
The pair joined legacy Bryan Cave in 2013 from Blank Rome when the latter closed its Hong Kong office.
While the majority of the firm’s global offices merged in April when the trans-Atlantic merger went live, a merger of the two firms in Hong Kong did not take place until September.
Hong Kong is the only market in Asia where both Bryan Cave and Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) had existing offices at the time of the merger. The combined firm branded the legacy Bryan Cave Hong Kong office as its Central office while naming the legacy BLP outpost the Quarry Bay office. The firm had cited office space issues as reasons for the delay of integration in Hong Kong.
BLP’s Hong Kong office, the larger of the two legacy offices, moved away from Central, the city’s prime business district, to Quarry Bay in 2016. That office location has been a point of contention for integrating the Bryan Cave team, according to sources familiar with the matter.
BCLP’s Washington, D.C.-based co-chairwoman Therese Pritchard, also the firm’s Asia coordinator overseeing the Shanghai and Hong Kong offices, visited Hong Kong in late October and met with the legacy Bryan Cave team. Pritchard was Bryan Cave’s managing partner before the merger.
BCLP said in a statement that it is still awaiting regulatory approval to combine its mainland Chinese offices. The Beijing office is a legacy BLP outpost while the Shanghai office is from the Bryan Cave side.
Additional reporting by John Kang in Hong Kong.