Ernst & Young to offer legal advice in China through local affiliation

Ernst & Young (EY) has launched a legal services arm in China by incorporating local firm Chen & Co into its network.

In accordance with PRC regulations, which restrict international firms from practising local law on the ground, EY has created an affiliation with the Shanghai-outfit, as opposed to a shared-ownership structure, in a bid to tap China’s growing legal services market.

Chen & Co, a 75-lawyer firm founded in 1998, will remain a separate, licensed Chinese firm but is ultimately expected to move into EY’s offices in the Shanghai World Financial Centre.

Most of the lawyers are located in Shanghai, though it also has satellite offices in Beijing and Hong Kong.

Among its core practices are capital markets, corporate, antitrust, disputes, real estate, bankruptcy, IP and banking and finance.

EY, one of the world’s ‘big four’ accounting firms, is not alone in its bid to tap China for legal work. Deloitte has also moved into the country through a similar set up with Qin Li law firm – also a licensed Chinese entity that specialises in cross border work.

Outside of China, EY’s existing Asian offering includes a handful of partners on the ground in Japan, affiliation arrangements in India and approximately a 40-lawyer practice in Australia.

The firm is also looking to grow its legal services arm in South East Asia, and in December hired former Herbert Smith Freehills partner John Dick to help launch the venture.

It is in the process of applying for foreign law firm licences in Singapore and Vietnam, where the planned offices would be subsidiaries of EY Law in Australia.

EY was not available for comment.

Related: Ernst & Young hires HSF partner in Singapore