Latham & Watkins former Hong Kong office managing partner Simon Powell has left the firm to launch his own practice as an independent arbitrator.
Powell acts as an arbitrator and counsel in arbitrations in Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore, China and Korea, focusing on disputes arising in the telecommunications and technology, manufacturing, energy, mining, financial services, projects and real estate sectors. He was appointed as a solicitor-advocate in 2015, which gives him the right to argue in court.
Powell was Latham’s Hong Kong managing partner between 2014 and 2017. He first joined Latham in 2010 to launch the U.S. firm’s Asia litigation practice, and previously was a partner at Jones Day and legacy Denton Wilde Sapte (now part of Dentons).
Latham’s Hong Kong office is currently headed by restructuring partner Josef Athanas, who relocated from Chicago in 2016.
During Powell’s tenure as Hong Kong office head, Latham recruited several key partners, including the firm’s global co-chairman of private equity Simon Cooke from Clifford Chance in 2016 and former Goldman Sachs executive director Yilong Du as a corporate partner (now Beijing office managing partner) in 2015. As Asia litigation chairman, Powell also recruited Sidley Austin’s international arbitration co-chairman Ing Loong Yang as a partner in 2013.
In 2015, the Hong Kong office also saw significant departures when former China practice co-head Michael Liu left with a seven-lawyer team for Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Liu preceded Powell as Latham’s Hong Kong office managing partner.
“He managed the Hong Kong office through a time of tremendous growth and we continue to benefit from things he instituted,” Athanas said of Powell.
As office managing partner, Powell also started a trainee program in Hong Kong. ”I do, of course, take great pride in having played my own small part in Latham’s growth and success in Hong Kong over recent years,” he said. “However, the one thing that I look back on with the greatest of affection and pride is the student recruitment and training program we built.”*
The Los Angeles-based firm currently has about 70 lawyers in Hong Kong, including 20 partners.
Hong Kong recently saw another high-profile arbitration lawyer leave a top U.S. firm to become an independent arbitrator. In November, Chiann Bao, the former secretary general of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, left Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after just two years as regional counsel at the firm to join Arbitration Chambers as an arbitrator.
Powell said setting up full-time as an independent arbitrator is a natural extension of his career after Big Law. “I have achieved all I could have hoped to achieve—and far more than I ever expected to—as a Big Law lawyer, and I want to continue to use the experience I have gained in that time, and the skills I have developed, to continue to assist parties resolve their disputes.”*
*Updated 1/15: This story has been updated with comments from Simon Powell.