Slaughter and May names next senior partner in Hong Kong

Corporate partner Benita Yu to succeed Peter Brien in October
Portrait of Benita Yu

Benita Yu

Magic Circle firm Slaughter and May has named long-serving corporate lawyer Benita Yu as the next senior partner of its Hong Kong office.

Yu will take up the role 1 October following the planned retirement of current Hong Kong senior partner, Peter Brien.

A Slaughters veteran, Yu joined the firm in 1994 and has been a partner since 1996. Her practice covers M&A and corporate finance transactions as well as high-profile securities matters. 

Slaughters senior partner, Steve Cooke, said: “Benita is an outstanding practitioner and is ideally equipped to continue the success of Slaughter and May in Hong Kong. I look forward to working with her.”

Yu has advised a number of major corporate clients, PRC state-owned enterprises, international issuers and leading investment banks over the course of her career at Slaughters. Her clients include the likes of Alibaba, China National Building Materials and Prada. 

As head of the Hong Kong office, Yu will lead Slaughters’ team of 55 lawyers based in the city, including 13 partners. 

Yu said: “I am delighted to take on the role of senior partner in Hong Kong. Having been working closely with Peter, I am looking forward to continuing to drive the success of the firm in Asia.”

Brien, meanwhile, is set to retire after nine years at the helm in Hong Kong. He joined Slaughters in 1988 as an associate in London and moved to the firm’s Hong Kong office a decade ago.  

Slaughters opened in Hong Kong back in the 1970’s and in 2009 opened another, smaller base in Asia in Beijing that is currently home to partner Jing Chen and associate Anthony Sze. 

New of Yu’s appointment follows Slaughters’ announcement last summer that it was shaking up its executive function to shift toward a more contemporary model. The firm created a managing partner and chief operating officer role ahead of the planned retirement of practice partners David Wittmann and executive partner Paul Stacey in April this year, after which their roles were axed. 

Litigation partner Deborah Finkler was elected to the managing partner role and Jill Hoseason was hired from rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer to be COO, with both having taken up their roles earlier this year. 

And at the start of May Simon Nicholls and Richard Smith took over as co-heads of the firm’s core corporate and M&A practice. They succeeded head of corporate Andy Ryde and head of M&A Roland Turnill, with it emerging last September that the latter had been elected to succeed Cooke as the firm’s next senior partner in May 2024.  

Slaughters remains one of the few top US or UK law firms operating a pure lockstep structure, in which partner pay is based on seniority. 

Debate over the viability of the pure lockstep model was sparked by the departure of Slaughters partner Murray Cox for Weil Gotshal & Manges last year, a rare lateral hire out of the firm’s flagship corporate team.  

The firm marked another departure last month when corporate partner Robert Chaplin moved across to Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom in London, just a few weeks after corporate associate Di Yu left to join the partnership at White & Case.  

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