Anglo-American law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) has recently announced that it will close its Beijing office, making it the third international firm after Stephenson Harwood and Vinson & Elkins to declare its intention to exit the Chinese capital in the past two months.

Established in 2013, BCLP’s Beijing operation is the smallest of its offices globally, with only one partner (Jim Buchanan) and two associates (He Sha and Swallow Chen). It focuses on infrastructure projects, real estate and shipping and aviation, with partner practicing on above-mentions areas, respectively.

The Beijing office was previously the legacy UK firm Berwin Leighton Paisner’s (BLP) office. In April 2018, BLP merged with U.S. firm Bryan Cave, which led to the mergers of both firms’ offices in Asia and the Beijing office adopting the new name of BCLP.

However, the merger was off to a rocky start in Asia. In March 2019, all lawyers at the previous Bryan Cave Shanghai office left, ending the physical presence of BCLP in the city. Two partners from Bryan Cave’s Hong Kong office, Kristi Swartz and Nigel Binnersley, then left shortly after to establish their own firm.

With the closure of the Beijing office, BCLP now has two offices in Asia, in Hong Kong and Singapore.

“In the face of continued economic uncertainty around the globe, the Firm will undertake targeted reductions to ensure that talent and resources are best aligned to meet client needs,” said BCLP in a press release. “While a difficult decision to make, we believe the limited adjustments to our workforce are in the best interest of our clients, our business, and our people for the long term.”

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 this year, a number of other international firms have scaled down their China operations: Both Osborne Clarke and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe announced that they would be closing their Hong Kong offices, while McDermott Will & Emery ended its long-time partnership with Yuanda China Law Firm this month.


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