08 August 2019

HSF commits long-term to China

Firm adds China law capability following the approval of a joint operation with Kewei.


Herbert Smith Freehills integration with Kewei Law Firm, established in 1995, was given the greenlight by Shanghai's Bureau of Justice. Asia executive partner, Justin D'Agostino, said “This new licence will transform our business on the Mainland, and signals our long-term commitment to China.”

Room to grow

The firm becomes one of only six international law firms permitted to integrate China law advice with international legal services through the joint operation model based in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. The joint operation will be known as Herbert Smith Freehills Kewei. It integrates international and PRC legal advice, initially in cross-border M&A and corporate, banking and finance, disputes, competition, capital markets and financial services regulatory. Kewei offers top-quality China lawyers with international experience, a strong client list, and an innovative managed legal services business, which will also integrate with Herbert Smith Freehills' market-leading ALT China operation. Founding partner Xu Wenbao, partner Stanley Xie and international partner Gavin Guo lead the firm. “Our 30-year China practice is strong with plenty of room to grow,” said Mr D'Agostino. The two firms have been working together for some time, and the partnership has been well received. “We have already attracted instructions on billion-dollar matters from some of the largest companies operating in China,” said Greater China managing partner May Tai. “Adding Kewei to our highly rated Mainland practice completes our offering in Greater China, and clients have responded very positively.” Kewei founding partne,r Wenbao Xu, said “Kewei Law Firm has been recognised as a pacesetter for high-quality service in the Shanghai legal sector for many years. As founder, I've been pleased to witness every success of the firm to date and am excited about this latest development onto an international platform.”

China moves

Baker McKenzie, partnering with Fenxun Partners in 2015, was the first to take advantage of a pilot programme as part of China’s commitment to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to open its legal services industry. They were followed by Ashurst, Hogan Lovells, Holman Fenwick Willan, and Linklaters. Other international firms, including King & Wood Mallesons, have used a Swiss verein model to merge with Chinese firms, with offices maintaining financial and regulatory independence from each other. Dentons and Chinese firm Dacheng combined in 2015 under the verein model.

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