Baker Botts to end physical presence in Asia with Hong Kong office closure

Move follows US law firm shuttering its Beijing office last year

Top 65 US law firm Baker Botts is set to close its Hong Kong office at the end of the year and with it end its on-the-ground presence in Asia.

The news follows last October’s closure of the firm’s other office in Asia in Beijing, which had eight lawyers including five partners.

The firm’s last resident partner in Hong Kong, Russell Wilkinson, is set to join DLA Piper. His departure follows that of the firm’s lead in Hong Kong and Beijing, Michael Arruda, who left at the end of last year for a role as senior counsel at King & Spalding in Tokyo.

“We have been carefully considering the Hong Kong market for some time and following the announced reorganisation of our approach in Asia last year, we have decided to close the office,” the firm said.

Baker Botts opened in Hong Kong back in 2005 and along with its emphasis on the energy industry offers corporate and private equity clients cross-border M&A capabilities across Asia, particularly in China. The firm also represents parties to international arbitration in the region including in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The firm said it will continue to work for Asian-based companies and multinationals operating in the region and said it also “considering additional markets where the scale of the firm’s Asia practice can be expanded".

Baker Botts maintains offices in London, Brussels, Moscow, Dubai and Riyadh, as well as seven across the US including its Houston headquarters.

Wilkinson has joined DLA Piper's finance, projects and restructuring practice in Hong Kong after 15 years as a senior energy partner at Baker Botts. His practice focuses on the development, acquisition and financing of energy businesses and infrastructure, as well as the commercialisation of energy resources.

Baker Botts declined to comment whether the two lawyers based in Hong Kong alongside Wilkinson will remain at the firm, but said it is “grateful to our lawyers and staff in Hong Kong for their contributions.” 

A number of international firms have been closing their offices in Asia over the past few years, including fellow Houston-based firm Vinson & Elkins pulling out of Beijing last May. In the same month UK firm Stephenson Harwood also departed the Chinese capital, with Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner following suit in July.

Last year also saw UK tech-focused firm Osborne Clarke shutter its two-partner office in Hong Kong, shortly after US firm Orrick called time on its efforts to build a presence in the city.

Going the other way, McDermott Will & Emery regained a physical presence in Asia in September when it set up shop in Singapore, having ended its on-the-ground presence in the region last year after it transferred its Shanghai joint venture office to Chicago rival Winston & Strawn. 

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