Freshfields strengthens Hong Kong corporate with Orrick hire

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has boosted its corporate team in Hong Kong with the hire of capital markets partner William Woo from Orrick.

Woo (pictured), whose practice also covers private equity and M&A, will join the magic circle firm in Hong Kong this month, taking the total number of corporate partners in the Hong Kong office to 10.

Fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, Woo’s hire comes as growing numbers of UK and US firms target Chinese-speaking lawyers as they eye more outbound work from the world’s second largest economy.

Before joining Orrick, Woo was part of a seven-partner corporate team quitting Allen & Overy in Hong Kong for Latham & Watkins in 2008.

His recent work has included advising a number of companies in the minerals and mining sector on proposed Hong Kong initial public offerings and a Chinese bank on a significant rights issue. His client base includes investment banks, private equity firms and Chinese state-owned enterprises.

Commenting on his appointment, Freshfields China chairman Teresa Ko said: “William is an excellent lawyer with terrific experience and he is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese. This makes him a perfect fit for our team. We’re seeing activity levels pick up so we’re particularly happy that he’s joining us at this time.”

Freshfields currently has seven offices in Asia, located across Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing; Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

The firm has felt the impact of US competition for talent in Hong Kong though and, in September, Legal Week reported that it had taken steps to protect its Asian partnership from US firms’ advances by breaking away from its lockstep and allowing new partners to be promoted more quickly in the region.

The overhaul has seen partners give management permission to offer more flexible remuneration packages in the region to retain talent. It has resulted in several partners being offered above-lockstep pay packages, with the top-up understood to be around an additional 30% of lockstep.

The overhaul came in the wake of the departure of partners such as Freshfields’ former China corporate head Christopher Wong who left for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett’s Beijing office in May 2011, with former Hong Kong managing partner Kay Ian Ng leaving for Sullivan & Cromwell a month later.