UK leaders lay out bold plans for expansion in Asia-Pacific

Linklaters, Hogan Lovells, Ashurst and Clifford Chance (CC) are all planning to significantly ramp up their Asian operations as increasing numbers of UK and US firms look to capitalise on the region’s growth potential.

Linklaters is hoping to increase the amount of fee income it generates in the Asia-Pacific region to nearer 20% of global revenues over the next four years, up from 12%-13% at present.

The firm’s four-year Asia strategy also includes possible launches in Indonesia and South Korea, which has now opened its doors to UK law firms. Australia, where magic circle rivals CC and Allen & Overy have both opened over the last 18 months, is not on the agenda.

In contrast, Australia features in both Ashurst 
and Hogan Lovells’ 
Asia-Pacific strategies.

Ashurst partners are set to vote on a tie-up with Australia’s Blake Dawson in the coming weeks, with the deal initially likely to take the form of a joint venture.

Ashurst – which currently brings in around 7% of its revenues from Asia and hopes to increase this figure to around 10% – is also considering launches in Indonesia and South Korea. The firm is also applying for a licence to practise in Beijing, which would hand the firm its second office in Greater China.

Hogan Lovells, meanwhile, is looking at its approach to Australia as part of its wider Asia-Pacific strategy. 
The transatlantic firm wants to increase combined 
Asian revenues from roughly 6% to 10% over the next 
three years, bringing it in line with legacy Lovells. Other areas targeted for expansion include Indonesia.

The growth targets come as CC plans to double Asia-Pacific revenues over the coming years and is also planning a launch in Seoul. The region brought in around 12% of CC’s £1.2bn revenues in 2010-11 and this is expected to increase to 15%-20%.

Ashurst Asia head Geoffrey Green commented: “Asia is one of few markets offering significant opportunities for growth. Our priorities are Beijing – where we will be applying for a licence – Indonesia and South Korea.”

Details of UK firms’ plans have emerged after a summer of Asian expansion by US firms keen to increase their share of a market that has seen both M&A and capital markets activity remain resilient despite uncertainty in the global economy.

Most recently, Kirkland & Ellis recruited eight partners from Latham & Watkins, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and Allen & Overy in Hong Kong.

For more, see Kirkland adds eight partners in Hong Kong with Skadden, Latham and A&O hires.