Linklaters and Slaughters add Hong Kong partners from US and Magic Circle rivals

Slaughters hires disputes partner from Debevoise as restructuring specialist Richard Woodworth joins Linklaters from Allen & Overy
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Slaughter and May and Linklaters have hired a partner apiece in Hong Kong from US firm Debevoise & Plimpton and UK Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy respectively. 

Ralph Sellar will join Slaughters as a disputes partner 1 November after almost nine years at Debevoise. A commercial litigator, he is currently international counsel in Debevoise’s disputes resolution group in London but was based in Hong Kong between 2015 and 2022. 

Sellar is dual qualified in Hong Kong and English law and brings experience in a range of banking litigation, including disputes relating to investment and wholesale banking, listed securities, OTC derivatives and structured products. He has also conducted regulatory investigations and white collar criminal defence cases and has experience of international investigations by the UK’s FCA, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, its Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) and the SEC.

“Ralph is an ideal addition to the team and his experience supplements our existing market leading offering in financial services litigation and investigations, said Richard Swallow, head of Slaughters’ disputes and investigations practice. “We are pleased to be increasing our presence in Hong Kong, in addition to strengthening our global Disputes and Investigations practice.”

The move marks a relatively rare external partner hire for the prestigious firm, which remains one of the few top US or UK law firms operating a pure lockstep structure, in which partner pay is strictly based on seniority.

Slaughters has only ever made two lateral partner hires in London, although they are more common in Hong Kong, where the lockstep does not apply. 

This month, long-serving corporate lawyer Benita Yu has taken over from Peter Brien as the office's senior partner. Brien has retired from the partnership and is now a senior consultant. Sellar's arrival will bring the office's partner count back up to 13.

Meantime, Linklaters has added Richard Woodworth to its restructuring and insolvency practice in Hong Kong from Magic Circle rival Allen & Overy. He brings extensive experience in all aspects of financial restructurings and formal insolvency proceedings and is dual qualified in Hong Kong and English law. 

Linklaters Asia managing partner, William Liu, said Woodworth’s hire demonstrated the firm’s continued investment in its global R&I offering, adding that Woodworth has “an impressive track record and an established reputation as a technically strong and commercially pragmatic specialist with deep regional knowledge and experience”.

Woodworth spent almost 12 years at A&O, where he founded and was co-head of the firm’s Asia Pacific restructuring and recovery group. His work has included advising the committee of lenders to shipbuilding industry group Vinashin and the secured creditor and appointed receivers on the restructuring of Baha Mar in the Bahamas. 

He has also advised the co-ordinating committees of creditors in connection with the ongoing restructurings of a number of PRC property developers, which chimes with Linklaters’ work advising Chinese property developers’ restructuring cases amid the country’s unprecedented property crisis. 

Woodworth’s arrival at Linklaters follows the firm re-hiring former Hong Kong office head Betty Yap from Paul Weiss last December to co-head its financial sponsor group in the city. At the same time the firm, which has around 80 lawyers in Hong Kong including 27 partners, re-hired financial regulation partner Carl Fernandes in the city from Latham & Watkins. 

Last month, a raft of firms, including Davis Polk & Wardwell, Slaughters and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer advised on the secondary listing of Tencent Music Entertainment Group on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. 

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