Herbert Smith Freehills has hired three projects partners in China from Pinsent Masons, including the British firm’s China head Hew Kian Heong.
The other Pinsent Masons partners headed to the Anglo-Australian legal giant are Asia project finance leader Ellen Zhang and partner Michelle Li.
Heong, who specializes in China-related construction and infrastructure disputes, had led Pinsent Masons’ China practice since 2014 and previously led the firm’s Shanghai office where he is based. He joined Pinsent Masons, which recently ended its six-year alliance with Chinese construction boutique Beijing Hesen, in 1995.
Zhang, who advises both development and financing of energy and infrastructure projects, joined Pinsent Masons in 2003 and became a partner a decade later. She is based in Beijing. Hong Kong-qualified Li had trained with Pinsent Masons in 2001 and made partner at the firm in 2014. She splits her time between Beijing and Shanghai.
Justin D’Agostino, who earlier this month was named Herbert Smith Freehills’ managing partner for Asia as the London-based firm picked up its first corporate partner in New York in Morrison & Foerster’s James Robinson, said that the three new China hires will help his firm win projects work as the country’s trade and economic growth development campaign, “Belt and Road,” progresses.
“The massive scale of the Belt and Road initiative is generating huge numbers of infrastructure projects across Asia and beyond—and every new project also has the potential for complex disputes,” D’Agostino said.
The Belt and Road campaign, which has generated a variety of work for law firms advising clients in the region, was coined by Chinese President Xi Jinping in order to create a China-centered trade and economic network in areas that cover central, south and southeast Asia, the Middle East and Russia.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ additions in China come after the firm watched a 12-lawyer real estate team leave its Paris office earlier this week for CMS Bureau Francis Lefebvre, a French arm of the CMS legal network, as noted by sibling publication Legal Week. Herbert Smith Freehills also recently saw Julia Pyke, head of its power and renewables group, leave the firm’s London office to become general counsel at French energy giant Électricité de France S.A.
Formed via a cross-border combination in 2012, Herbert Smith Freehills recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of an important milestone in its history, a 1997 merger between two top law firms in the Western Australian city of Perth that helped form legacy Freehills.