Shanghai, China, home to Fangda Partners

For the second time in the past two months, a Magic Circle firm has lost a partner to a Chinese firm—this time with Linklaters China head Fang Jian moving to Shanghai-based Fangda Partners.

In December, Fangda’s rival firm, Han Kun Law Offices, recruited Clifford Chance financial regulatory partner Yang Tiecheng.

Fangda announced the move on Sunday, after Linklaters announced on Jan. 19 that Fang had left the firm and it has appointed Hong Kong partner William Liu to be its new China head.

Fang’s practice at Fangda will focus on cross-border M&A and regulatory work. His arrival will strengthen Fangda’s offerings in the financial service sector, the firm said in a statement.

Both Fangda and Han Kun are among a small group of domestic firms with higher revenue per lawyer, according to the latest China 40 survey. In 2016, 451-lawyer Fangda ranked eighth among China’s 40 highest-grossing firms with $305,000 in RPL, while 175-lawyer Han Kun placed third with $390,000.

Fang is not the first former Linklaters managing partner to join Fangda in recent years. In 2017, the Shanghai-based firm hired Linklaters Asia then-managing partner (2009) Zili Shao as non-executive chairman. Before that, Fangda also poached two former partners from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer: former China antitrust head Michael Han moved in 2014, while former litigation partner Peter Yuen joined in 2012 to open the Chinese firm’s Hong Kong office.

Linklaters’ new China head William Liu has been a lifer at the U.K. firm, having joined in 1998 as a trainee. He made partner a decade later. In addition to his new role leading the firm’s China practice, Liu will continue as Asia capital markets head.

Liu’s experience advising clients on the mainland and in Hong Kong is ideally suited to Linklaters’ ambitions to grow and develop its China practice, Asia managing partner Nathalie Hobbs said in a statement.

“William’s background will enable us to have the teams across China work even more closely together and enable us to achieve our goal of being the leading firm in China across all areas,” Hobbs said.

Linklaters has been waiting for regulatory approval for an alliance with Shanghai-based Zhao Sheng Law Firm, following the U.K. firm’s decision to spin off a group of China lawyers into a domestic firm. Former Linklaters senior consultant Eric Liu is managing partner at Zhao Sheng, while former senior lawyer Grace Yu and counsel Zhou Zhirong are both partners.

Fang, a specialist on China’s financial regulatory matters, joined Linklaters in 1999 and had been managing partner for its mainland China practice since 2011. He led the firm’s longtime search for a China practice solution. In 2016, Fang told The Asian Lawyer that Linkaters’ long-term strategic goal was to become the “trusted adviser” to Chinese clients.

“If we want to develop deeper relationship with Chinese companies, only providing transaction-based service will not be enough,” he said. “We must be able to advise on the day-to-day business operations, and that needs Chinese law practice.”