Baker McKenzie hires Addleshaw Goddard’s Hong Kong dispute resolution head
Ronald Sum joins as a partner as Addleshaw Goddard retreats from the Hong Kong market
Baker McKenzie has hired arbitration lawyer Ronald Sum JP from Addleshaw Goddard to strengthen its Hong Kong disputes team.
Veteran arbitration lawyer Sum was previously the head of Addleshaw Goddard’s dispute resolution team in Hong Kong, which said it was exiting its Hong Kong business back in May. Sum joins as a partner, along with associates Plato Cheung and Beryl Wu.
Prior to his time at Addleshaw Goddard, Sum headed up Locke Lord’s Hong Kong ADR practice for a year, having spent five years at US firm Troutman Sanders, as well as a short stint at Blank Rome and three years at legacy firm Eversheds.
He qualified in 1997 – Hong Kong’s handover year – at DLA Piper, where he spent 12 years, rising to partner in the process. Like many Hong Kong-based solicitors, he is qualified in multiple jurisdictions, including England & Wales, New South Wales and Hong Kong – as well as the Greater Bay Area (GBA).
That last qualification is significant; Sum was one of a handful to achieve it in January 2022 as Hong Kong's government pursued closer practitioner and judicial links with mainland China, including supporting cross-border interim measures in arbitration, as it sought greater regional integration.
Sum’s practice is firmly rooted in Chinese and Asian-related arbitrations, where his varied practice – spanning sport, insurance, general commercial disputes and cross-border matters – has seen him act as counsel and arbitrator.
Sum is an establishment figure in Hong Kong, serving as a council member since 2021 in its Law Society, whose slate defeated centrist rivals in controversial elections.
Steven Sieker, managing partner of the firm’s Chinese offices, hailed Sum as “an outstanding practitioner with entrenched relationships with Hong Kong government authorities and Chinese private and state-owned enterprises.”
Sum has established links to Hong Kong’s International Arbitration Centre, as well as China’s CIETAC and Shanghai’s SHIAC. He also sits on two influential government advisory committees for the promotion of arbitration and mediation, including investor-state mediation, in which he also practices.
China is keen to stress Hong Kong’s economic, social and political integration into its regional hinterland, notwithstanding the disruption caused by pandemic, which was an explicit factor in many firms’ decisions to pull out of Hong Kong.
John Joyce, Addleshaw Goddard’s managing partner, said in May: “Having carefully considered our position in Hong Kong and the unique set of challenges we face there, we do not feel that renewing our lease, whilst continuing to hope for a dramatic change in outlook, is something we can economically justify.”
Sieker, however, stressed only positives: “[Sum’s] joining not only will help deepen and broaden our China client base, but also position Baker McKenzie well to seize more disputes work, which is expected to rise as businesses explore the opportunities presented by the GBA.”
Dispute resolution under Hong Kong’s ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is a part of that – despite rising international concerns about the rule of law, particularly China’s national security law. Sieker, however, said: “Hong Kong continues to fulfill its role as an international legal and dispute resolution centre in the Greater Bay Area development plan as well as China's 14th Five-Year Plan.”
The new team, he said “bolsters our ability to offer GBA-focused clients first-class dispute resolution services, but also demonstrates our support of national policies in utilising Hong Kong's strengths as a springboard to the GBA.”