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From Global to Local: Debevoise & Plimpton Changes Asia Approach

09/30/14

From Global to Local: Debevoise & Plimpton Changes Asia Approach


Summary: In a rather smart move, New York-based global law firm Debevoise & Plimpton turns its Hong Kong outpost into a local law firm after beefing it up over the last year. The change will come into effect from October 2014. Debevoise's presence in Hong Kong over the last two decades was as a foreign law firm.

Debevoise & Plimpton announced on Monday that it is switching status in Hong Kong "to establish as a local practice." The practice in Hong Kong is led by a team of eight partners and international counsel, and includes 12 lawyers admitted as solicitors in Hong Kong. For the last 20 years, Debevoise & Plimpton had operated as a 'foreign law firm' registered with the Hong Kong Law Society.

The change in status, besides obvious tax connotations, would allow Debevoise in Hong Kong to provide Hong Kong law advice to locals, in addition to providing the legal advice on international and US law that it currently provides.

Over the last year or more, Debevoise had continually been adding industry stalwarts to its Hong Kong office preparing for this move to establish itself as a local law firm. In 2013, the firm hired ex-General Electric Executive Counsel Andy Y. Soh as an international counsel in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, the firm also hired Stuart J. Valentine, a well-known Asia insurance practitioner. Valentine was a partner at King & Wood Mallesons.

Debevoise had been planning for this move for quite some time. In 2011, it launched a disputes group relocating Philip Rohlik from New York, and adding two other associates to the Hong Kong office. Two of the firm's partners in Hong Kong, Drew Dutton and Andrew M. Ostrognai, were also recognized this year by The Asian Lawyers as "All-Stars" in banking & finance, and investment funds respectively.

UK legal news website The Lawyer, reported that according to Ostrognai, the managing partner at the firm's Hong Kong office, the shift in status fit in with the firm's strategy and there were no external factors involved. He said that the firm decided it was the right time to offer its clients in Hong Kong a wider level of service. The firm is not looking for immediate additions to the team in Hong Kong and would be now in a phase of consolidation.

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