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26 June 2020

Two top Hong Kong partners join new firms and make tracks for London

Herbert Smith Freehills and Linklaters bolster London teams with hires from Allen & Overy and Kirkland & Ellis respectively

By Ben Rigby

Michael Jacobs: returning to London with a different firm

Two leading Hong Kong finance partners have moved back to London, taking up residence at new firms in the process.

Equity capital markets specialist Michael Jacobs has joined Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) from Allen & Overy (A&O) while banking partner David Irvine has re-joined Linklaters after a five-year stint at Kirkland & Ellis. 

Jacobs is the second partner to leave A&O’s Hong Kong office this month, following the departure of debt capital markets partner Alex Tao to Milbank

Jacobs has spent the last three years in Hong Kong, having spent thirteen of his past fifteen years in practice at the magic circle UK law firm, where he made partner in 2017.

His arrival at HSF follows the departure in April of London-based ECM head Charles Howarth to CMS.

Stephen Wilkinson, managing partner of the HSF's global corporate practice, said his experience and track record would “be a valuable asset to the team” while Jacobs said the move presented "an exciting new challenge and opportunity".

Also on the move is Kirkland banking partner David Irvine, who re-joins Linklaters after spending five years as a partner in the debt team at Kirkland’s Hong Kong office. 

Irvine is no stranger to Linklaters, having joined as a banking associate in 2001 and spent seven years with the London team before being promoted to the partnership in Hong Kong in 2008.

Linklaters managing partner Gideon Moore said that Irvine’s broad knowledge and experience would boost its London resources, adding: “Having worked with David previously when I was global head of the banking team, I am particularly pleased to see him back at the firm.”

Davide Mencacci, global head of banking, said Irvine had been “at the forefront of the leveraged finance market in Asia and brings strong technical expertise, acute business sense and proven entrepreneurial abilities”.

The return of two leading transactional practitioners to London comes as a proposed China national security law threatens to undermine the city’s independence under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle fuelling ongoing domestic pro-democracy protests and prompting international condemnation from countries including the US and the UK.

Earlier this week, the Hong Kong Bar Association stepped up its criticism of the proposed security law, arguing that ‘unprecedented’ plans for the Hong Kong chief executive to designate judges to preside over security trials ‘would undermine judicial independence’.

In May, Vinson & Elkins signalled it anticipated shutting down its Beijing outpost by the end of the year and was evaluating its plans for its Hong Kong office while Orrick and Osborne Clarke have both announced decisions to close in Hong Kong this year.

However, last December Steptoe announced it was opening a Hong Kong regulatory practice with the hire of a partner and counsel from Clifford Chance.

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