Kirkland Opens in Beijing After Tripling China Lawyers

Kirkland & Ellis LLP, the Chicago-based law firm that has more than tripled its lawyers in China since 2011, opened a Beijing office saying it expects more work with initial share sale and private equity clients.

“We’re committed to China long term and this complements our Hong Kong and Shanghai offices,” said partner Chuan Li, who heads Kirkland’s Shanghai office and will now spend at least half the week in Beijing.

Kirkland hired eight partners in Hong Kong including David Zhang from Latham & Watkins LLP two years ago, when the city was in the midst of a capital markets boom. Initial share sales, which tumbled from a record $58 billion in 2010 to $8 billion last year and $6.1 billion year-to-date according to data compiled by Bloomberg, should pick up by year-end, Zhang said.

“Next year will definitely be better than this year,” he said, citing improving valuations as concerns about investing in Chinese companies are overcome and the economy’s growth picks up. Zhang and Li also saw continued activity in mergers and acquisitions and private equity deals.

“Cross-border transactional activity between greater China and the rest of the world continues to grow,” Jeffrey C. Hammes, chairman of the firm’s global management executive committee, said in a statement.

Tudou, Sinopec

Spokeswoman Kate Slaasted declined to comment on the financial performance of the Hong Kong office since its 2011 expansion. Kirkland won’t initially hire new lawyers for Beijing, and will move three of four lawyers there from its other China offices, Li said.

Kirkland now has 10 lawyers in Shanghai and 55 in Hong Kong, up from a total of 18 in both cities in 2011 when it hired Zhang and other partners including Nick Norris and Dominic Tsun from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Ashley Young from Allen and Overy LLP.

Kirkland’s clients since have included the independent committee of Focus Media Holding Ltd. in the Shanghai-based company’s $3.7 billion buyout by the Carlyle Group LP., and Tudou Holdings Ltd. in the online video company’s acquisition by Youku Inc. The law firm also represented the underwriters in the $1.8 billion IPO of Sinopec Engineering Group Co. in Hong Kong this year.

Beijing is Kirkland’s third office in Asia. The 1,600-lawyer firm has 11 offices including two in Europe in London and Munich.