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Latham Stuns Magic Circle’s A&O With 7-Partner Hong Kong Raid

Posted Oct 13, 2008 5:19 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Latham & Watkins has raided one of London's biggest and best-known law firms, luring seven partners away from the Hong Kong office of Allen & Overy.

Their move to the Los Angeles-based international firm "represents one of the most significant departures ever seen from the foreign network of a magic circle firm," and leaves just four partners in A&O's corporate group in Hong Kong, there, reports Legal Week. Both Asia corporate chief Michael Liu and China group head Kenneth Chan are included in the seven-attorney group.

Moreover, it is a sign that times are changing, the British legal publication writes: "The foreign offices of leading London firms have so far proved largely impregnable to predatory attentions of U.S. rivals aside from Italy, a market that has proved tough for U.K. firms to manage."

However, the Hong Kong raid doesn't exactly leave A&O without alternatives: It has some 200 lawyers in Asia, including 100 corporate specialists, while Latham has 30 in Hong Kong.

“We can refocus, and this is a good opportunity to rebalance," says Wim Dejonghe, A&O's managing partner."We have had quite a bit of work in the region and Hong Kong is keeping up strong.”

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