Ropes & Gray Expands in Asia on Chinese Private Equity

Ropes & Gray LLP Partner Julian Chung
Julian Chung, incoming partner at Ropes & Gray LLP. Source: Ropes & Gray LLP via Bloomberg

Ropes & Gray LLP, the Boston-founded law firm with more than 900 lawyers, said it hired two partners from U.S. and U.K. firms in Hong Kong and plans to double its Asia-based lawyers by the end of the year.

Julian Chung, 51, will join on May 28, when Ropes & Gray becomes formally licensed to practice Hong Kong Law, from London-based Norton Rose LLP, the Boston firm said. Gary Li, 36, joined as a partner from New York-based Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, on May 10. Both lawyers will work on private equity investments in publicly-listed companies, Ropes & Gray said.

“It’s a response to a specific request from our clients,” said Marcia Ellis, a Hong Kong-based partner at Ropes & Gray. She said private equity firms are increasingly investing in public companies in mergers and acquisitions and as cornerstone investors in initial share sales.

Ropes & Gray joins other U.S.-based law firms such as Kirkland & Ellis LLP in increasing the number of private equity and capital markets lawyers in Hong Kong. Wall Street firms, including Sullivan & Cromwell LLP and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP, have also started advising on local law in the Chinese city, catching up to U.K.-founded firms that have offered local law advice since Hong Kong was a British colony.

“In the area of servicing private equity funds, we’re far ahead of the U.K. firms,” Ellis said, adding the firm will open an office in Seoul “within a few months.”

The new Hong Kong and South Korean practices will contribute to an almost doubling of the number of lawyers the firm has in Asia, from 35 at the end of 2011 to more than 60 by the end of 2012, Ellis said.

Private Equity Investment

Private equity firms invested $28 billion in mainland Chinese companies in 2011, according to the figures compiled by the Asian Venture Capital Journal. That compares with about $9 billion so far this year, according to the AVCJ. In the past year the firm’s Asia-based lawyers have worked on three of Asia’s six leveraged buyouts valued at more than $1 billion, Ellis said.

Chung said Chinese state-owned enterprises looking to take stakes in natural resources companies listed overseas may rely on private equity firms to provide financing and global expertise.

Ropes & Gray clients include Bain Capital LLC, TPG Capital, and Baring Private Equity.

The firm opened its first Asia office in Tokyo in 2007.

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