Allen & Overy’s co-head of arbitration, Matthew Gearing QC, is leaving to become a barrister at Essex Court Chambers in London, and, subject to approvals, Temple Chambers in Hong Kong.
Gearing, who chaired Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre from 2017-2020, will join Essex Court in May, enabling him to exit A&O in good order, and start at the Bar while balancing existing hearing commitments.
News of his departure comes hard on the heels of the unveiling by former Linklaters arbitration co-head Pierre Duprey of his own Paris boutique.
Gearing will continue to work closely with A&O as an advocate, while also developing his arbitrator practice with the London set, which is regarded as the market leader for both investment treaty and commercial arbitration, in which work Gearing specialises.
“My association with Essex Court goes back to the late 1990s,” he said. “I am delighted now to be joining, working both on London- and Asian- based matters, retaining close links with many friends and colleagues on the arbitration circuit and of course also at Allen & Overy, where I have spent almost half of my life.”
His choice of set is no surprise, given that association; it also reunites him with Angeline Welsh, who worked with Gearing at A&O before joining Matrix Chambers at 2015, moving to Essex Court in January 2020.
Subject to approval from Hong Kong’s judiciary, Gearing plans to start at Temple Chambers in September 2021, initially by way of a short pupillage, before being called to the HK Bar.
Temple Chambers is one of Hong Kong’s strongest commercial sets, home to current HKIAC co-chair, former justice secretary, Rimsky Yuen SC, with whom Gearing liaised when serving as chair of HKIAC, where he was seen as a modernising force.
Post-handover, comparatively few UK silks have joined the Hong Kong Bar; but Gearing’s reputation for top-notch investment treaty work, such as the $5bn Reliance Industries dispute with India, adds much to Temple Chambers, as does his Hong Kong arbitrator practice.
His arrival will also help meet demand for senior commercial advocates locally, at a time when such individuals will certainly be in heavy demand, while bolstering Hong Kong’s standing as a place to resolve business disputes in otherwise changing times. Gearing’s own commitment to Hong Kong is not in doubt, having largely been based there since 2008.
At A&O, where co-head of arbitration Mark Levy QC will take sole charge of the practice, colleagues praised him, with Singapore partner Sheila Ahuja highlighting his “exceptional” work and Hong Kong partner Matthew Hodgson describing him as being “amongst the leading international arbitration advocates of his generation, as well as being a great mentor and friend”.
“We will miss his special combination of intellectual rigour, good humour and sheer stamina around the office,” he added.
Joint heads of Essex Court Chambers, Joe Smouha and Huw Davies, said the set was “a natural home” for his practice.
Gearing’s move gives Essex Court regular Hong Kong connections, while the set’s strong links to Essex Court Chambers Duxton, a Singapore group practice, will benefit all sides.
His exit reduces the ranks of senior solicitor-silks, former BCLP partner Nic Fletcher QC and Hogan Lovells’ Simon Nesbit QC having joined 4 New Square and Maitland Chambers respectively in recent years, although five solicitors were appointed QCs in December, including one in Hong Kong.