ALB: What are some of the key objectives you have laid out for Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) since joining the firm as its Hong Kong managing partner and Asia head? Are there any key practice areas or regions that the firm’s Asian offices are focusing on in 2015?

Charlton: The key goal is to ensure that Berwin Leighton Paisner in Asia, just like in the other major regions where the firm is operative, is concentrating on its key products. We don’t want to be doing anything that is outside of what the firm is famous for, and what it is really good at. We need to be disciplined around ensuring that we are pursuing our real estate and infrastructure, litigation and regulatory businesses, asset finance, corporate finance and private client, which are core practices of the firm as a whole. We have a collection of focus markets across Asia. They include China and Greater China just as much as they include ASEAN, and in particular, Singapore, Indonesia and Myanmar. These are the five core sectors and practice areas that we are pursuing consistently in Asia, alongside our Middle East and European businesses.

ALB: BLP recently acquired local law firm Haley & Co in Hong Kong. How does this fit into the firm’s plans for Asia?

Charlton: It was great to get the Haley & Co acquisition under the belt. We were talking for a few months before the agreement, and I think it was clear to both sides that there is great synergy between what Haley & Co has developed, and what Berwin Leighton Paisner is looking to develop. Haley & Co specialises in the two prime practice areas of arbitration and real estate. Glenn Haley has a renowned construction litigation and arbitration practice, and Ilan Freiman is perfectly placed in the sweet spot of real estate and infrastructure. Bringing that firm and its constituent members into Berwin Leighton Paisner Asia is exactly in tune with what our business aims are. The acquisition went live on May 1, and Glenn, Ilan and Geoff Shaw have officially come on board as partners.

ALB: Are there any further expansion plans for BLP in the pipeline?

Charlton: On the one hand, as an innovative business we are always looking for the right opportunities for the sake of profitable growth. But on the other hand, when you take something on board, you have to make sure that you integrate it properly, and don’t just move straight on to the next one. We are very conscious that we need to bed the new team down and integrate it well into the Asia business as a whole, as well as into the Middle East and European businesses because we have to make the best of all the synergies. As the leader of the Asian business, I am spending a lot of time in Hong Kong at the moment and making sure that the nuts and bolts of the acquisition are working well.

ALB: What about expanding BLP’s physical presence in new markets in Asia? Is this on the firm’s radar?

Charlton: That is not on the cards for now. We are looking at opportunities, and we are very aware of what our clients are looking for. We are constantly talking to our client base about how we can service them most effectively, and we will listen to them. But right now we are making sure that we are making the very best of what we have now, which is an Asian business comprising a strong Singapore offering for ASEAN, the newly expanded Hong Kong office and our offering in Beijing. I am very keen to make sure that we get all three businesses humming together in an integrated and effective way. That is a major part of the initial period in my new role.

ALB: Competition in Asia is growing fiercer with a number of international firms growing their presence in the region, and several local firms strengthening their practices. Do you think BLP has to go beyond its key offerings and tap into new practice areas in order to remain competitive?

Charlton: I would say “never say never”. But our view is, like with any business, you really have to pursue what you are very good at, what your brand stands for, and what you are known for. And right now, the core competencies of Berwin Leighton Paisner are across real estate and infrastructure, litigation and regulatory, asset finance, corporate finance and private client. Asia is an incredibly competitive market, and you have to differentiate yourself to be successful. We believe we have the potential to do that in these core areas of excellence that we have, and if we can do it well, we can be very confident about the year ahead. 


1979 – 1999

Clifford Chance


1999 – 2009

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer


2009 – 2012

DLA Piper

International Group Head -Finance & Projects

2012 – 2014

DLA Piper

Managing Director - Asia Pacific

Oct 2014 – present

Berwin Leighton Paisner

Asia Head, Hong Kong Managing Partner

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