Sidley Austin to close Shanghai office

Chicago-founded Sidley latest US firm to scale back in China as it consolidates operations in Beijing and Hong Kong

Sidley Austin has confirmed it is shuttering its office in Shanghai, making it the latest US law firm to scale back its presence in China amid a prolonged market downturn and simmering tensions with the US.  

A spokesperson for the 2,300-lawyer firm said it would consolidate its China operations by September with relocations to Beijing, Hong Kong and other Sidley offices. 

“As part of our review of office space and attorney requests to relocate or retire, we will not be renewing our Shanghai lease,” the spokesperson said. “We remain committed to offering a full range of services in the China market and our clients will not be impacted.”

Above the Law reported Sidley has already relocated some of its Shanghai lawyers to Beijing and Hong Kong. The firm’s website currently lists 11 lawyers in Shanghai including two partners, alongside 13 in Beijing and 88 in Hong Kong. 

The move sees Sidley join a raft of Big Law firms that have reduced their China presence in the past year amid growing pressures on foreign businesses. 

Mayer Brown confirmed last week that it was hiving off the bulk of its 170-lawyer Hong Kong arm, and in March Weil said it was mulling the closure of its Shanghai office, having shut its Beijing base last year. 

Orrick also confirmed in March it had terminated its lease in Shanghai, while last summer Dentons broke off from its China arm, Dacheng Law Offices, citing new Chinese government rules on data privacy and cybersecurity. 

The move came shortly after Eversheds Sutherland’s international arm and King & Wood Mallesons’ China business formed an exclusive alliance that saw KWM close its six offices in the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Eversheds portrayed the deal as a practical alternative to having a large presence on the ground in China.

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