A well-established trio of offshore law firms operating in Asia – Maples and Calder, Ogier, and Walkers – has been joined by a fourth, reflecting rising demand from hedge funds for their services in the region.
Mourant Ozannes officially opened an office in Hong Kong – its first in the region – on Monday this week with a team of six lawyers, including three partners. The office will focus initially on investment funds, corporate and finance work.
Paul Christopher has moved from Europe to run the office as managing partner, having previously headed Mourant Ozannes’ corporates team in the Channel Islands. He specialises in corporate, investment funds and finance work.
He is joined by two other partners, funds law specialist Alex Last, and Simon Lawrenson, who specialises in corporate and finance.
Last leads the Cayman Islands practice in Hong Kong. Before joining Mourant, he had worked for other offshore law firms – most recently Appleby in Jersey and prior to that at Maples in Dubai and Hong Kong. He has established numerous Cayman Islands-domiciled funds for clients in Asia and the Middle East. Last has also worked for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in London on corporate, regulatory and investment funds work.
Lawrenson, who joins this week, leads the British Virgin Islands practice in Asia and worked previously for Linklaters in London and Maples in the BVI.
Senior lawyers Bronwyn King and Danielle Roman have also joined the Hong Kong team.
King practises Cayman Islands and BVI law and specialises in investment funds and corporate finance. She most recently worked for Walkers in Hong Kong and London, Simmons & Simmons in Shanghai and Ogier in the BVI.
Roman, a corporate and finance specialist, practises Cayman Islands and BVI law. She worked previously for Clifford Chance and Walkers in Hong Kong and Denton Wilde Sapte in London.
Legal assistant Edwin Chan completes the team, focusing on corporate and commercial work. He was previously at Blank Rome as an associate and speaks English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
Mourant has an existing client base and list of contacts in the region that are growing, notes Christopher. “There are people we have very good connections with who are moving from Europe to Asia and continuing to use us,” he adds, “whether senior lawyers at international firms or investment managers.”
Mourant is seeing business growth specifically from international hedge fund, private equity and real estate firms, he says, and expects to develop their offering for home-grown Asian companies.
Christopher has been in Hong Kong since the firm obtained its registration in August, working on recruiting staff and ensuring the required infrastructure is in place. The new joiners have been coming on board since the start of 2012.
The firm – with offices in the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Jersey and London – chose Hong Kong as its Asian base because it felt it was a “ready market for the offshore services we offer, in funds and other areas,” says Christopher.
Asked whether Mourant is likely to seek to attract onshore funds formation business – as certain offshore firms have reportedly started to do – Christopher says that is not part of the plan. “Our strategy is that we are resolutely offshore,” he adds.