Linklaters names new China chief as former head leaves for domestic firm

Linklaters has appointed a new China head to succeed Fang Jian, who is joining domestic firm Fangda Partners.

The magic circle firm’s China practice will now be led by Hong Kong partner William Liu, who will also join the firm’s Asia executive committee.

Liu is a Linklaters lifer, having joined as a trainee in 1998 and made partner a decade later. Alongside his new leadership role, he will also continue to serve as Asia capital markets head.

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

“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,” she said.

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

Linklaters has been waiting for regulatory approval for an alliance with Shanghai-based Zhao Sheng Law Firm, following the 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’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.

He is the second magic circle partner to return to a Chinese firm in the past two months, after Han Kun Law Offices recruited former Clifford Chance financial regulatory partner Yang Tiecheng in December.

Fang’s move to Fangda comes after the Shanghai-based firm’s hire last year of former Linklaters Asia managing partner Zili Shao as non-executive chairman.

Fangda has also recruited partners from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in recent years, including China antitrust head Michael Han, who joined in 2014, and litigation partner Peter Yuen, who moved over in 2012 to open a Hong Kong base for the Chinese firm.

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