International law firm Allen & Overy has appointed Brian Harrison as its new regional managing partner of the firm in Asia. He moves from the firm's London office and his appointment is effective as of yesterday (June 2nd).
The move signifies a growing trend in Asia. Allen & Overy's outgoing managing partner for Asia, Chris Roberts, is a lawyer with a background in general banking work, which in an interview with FinanceAsia in April, he said was now the biggest profit generator for the firm. Two years ago the capital markets group held that honour.
In contrast, Harrison is a projects and restructuring lawyer and his appointment could be seen as an indication that that side of the business could now be expected to grow. Certainly the need for infrastructure in Asia is as great as ever and with abundant finance available in local markets, the mood looks right for some long-term projects to get finance.
Allen & Overy is not the only firm to be promoting its projects lawyers. Two months ago, Freshfields announced that a new managing partner for Asia, Perry Noble, would be taking over from Ruth Markland. Noble, like Harrison is a projects lawyer.
Harrison - described by fellow partners as a straight-talking Kiwi - has been a partner with Allen & Overy since 1987 and most recently he oversaw the firm's move to new offices in London's Canary Wharf. He has also been working on two high profile UK project and restructuring deals over the last year, the $14.7 billion Network Rail takeover of Railtrack and the financing for the Wembley National stadium.
"It is an enormously exciting challenge to take on, given the success of the firm's Asian offices over the last few years," says Harrison talking about his new position. "At around 10% of our worldwide business - and growing - an enormous part of the firm's success is directly attributable to Asia. It is with this in mind that I will be taking up my role."