12 ASIAN LEGAL BUSINESS – APRIL 2024 WWW.LEGALBUSINESSONLINE.COM BRI EFS Weil, Gotshal & Manges has become the latest U.S. law firm to retreat from the Chinese market, saying it is moving towards ending its presence on the mainland. The law firm confirmed to Reuters that it closed its Beijing office on Dec. 31 and is “engaged in discussions on the office in Shanghai with a view to consolidating its Asia operations” in Hong Kong. “We will be working out the details in the coming months, but we remain dedicated to our award-winning Asia practice and to providing top service to our clients in the region,” a Weil spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson did not say whether Weil laid off its Beijing staff or how many employees it had there. The firm’s website now lists six employees, including one partner, in Shanghai, although two of them are also members of Weil’s Hong Kong office. Weil has more than 20 lawyers and other employees in Hong Kong, according to its website. U.S. and international law firms have pulled back from the Chinese market amid growing pressures on foreign businesses there and converging economic and geopolitical challenges. New Chinese government rules on data privacy and cybersecurity were among the reasons cited by global law firm Dentons last year as it ended its combination with Chinese law firm Dacheng, an 8,000-lawyer firm that accounted for its entire presence in mainland China. Other firms have cited market conditions in announcing cuts or office closures in the country. UK-founded Linklaters in September said it was laying off 30 China-based lawyers due to the country’s “prolonged” economic downturn, which has brought a drop-off in transactions and deal activity requiring legal advice. U.S.-founded law firms Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Latham & Watkins, Perkins Coie and Proskauer Rose have also closed at least one of their China offices since June, according to media reports. U.S. LAW FIRM WEIL EXITS BEIJING, ‘IN DISCUSSIONS’ FOR SHANGHAI CLOSURE U.S. law firm Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe will consolidate its China offering into its Beijing office after deciding not to renew its lease in Shanghai, a spokesperson has confirmed. It has also terminated its lease and operations in Taipei. Two partners from the Shanghai office, Ethan Ma and Jeffrey Sun, along with two associates and one other staff member, will be affiliated with the Beijing office. Eight other employees (including one associate and one consultant) will be offered market severance. Orrick currently has no resident lawyers in Taipei. With these closures, Orrick becomes one of three U.S. law firms in the span of a month. Another recent announcement came from Weil (see accompanying story), while Perkins Coie has said it will shutter its Shanghai office while retaining its Beijing office and IP agency business. In August 2020, Orrick closed its Hong Kong office. The firm currently has offices in Beijing, Singapore, and Tokyo within the Asia-Pacific region. The Beijing office will continue to provide litigation and IP services, including both U.S. federal court and ITC litigation for Chinese companies, and support with cross-border corporate transactions, the spokesperson noted. With the relocation of the partners from Shanghai, Orrick’s Beijing office will have five partners. “We have recruited two top IP litigators this year who focus on Section 337 matters before the U.S. International Trade Commission as well as federal and state court representation: Josh Pond and Tim Carroll. They will work closely with Xiang Wang, who heads our China IP practice, and Ethan Ma, to serve our Greater China clients. We will also continue our cross-border M&A and venture capital work for Greater China clients,” they added. “These moves reflect a rebalancing of our Asia Pacific platform, including the launch of our Singapore office in 2021, to align with client demand,” the spokesperson said. “Going forward, we will continue to support our APAC tech and energy sector clients as they innovate regionally and globally, from our offices in Beijing, Singapore and Tokyo. This approach will enable us to shift greater investment to Singapore and other markets.” They added that while the Beijing office will primarily focus on the tech sector, the Singapore team “is focused on serving the fast-evolving energy transition market throughout South and Southeast Asia, including in collaboration with our Tokyo energy team.” ORRICK CLOSES IN SHANGHAI, TAIPEI AS GREATER CHINA RETREAT CONTINUES Image: KenoKickit/