China’s second-largest firm poised to launch in London

Yingke also puts Hong Kong, US, Japan, Australia, Singapore, Middle East on its shopping list

Catherine Guo

Catherine Guo

China’s second-largest firm by lawyer headcount has unveiled ambitious plans for a London launch following a year of rapid expansion that has seen it open bases in Budapest and Verona.

Beijing-headquartered Yingke is following in the footsteps of Zhonglun W&D, which is currently the only Chinese firm with a London presence following its groundbreaking entrance in 2006.

Yingke international practice partner Catherine Guo is overseeing the ­London opening. Jack Yu, who is currently international policy adviser at The Law Society of England and Wales, is joining the firm as London managing director.

“London’s a key location for us in Europe; it will serve as our headquarters for Western European ­business,” said Guo. “From the London office we can also enter into cooperation and relationships with firms and clients in neighbouring countries such as France and Germany.”

Yingke established its first European outpost in ­September 2010, when it launched in Budapest via a joint venture with ­Hungarian firm Várnai & Partners dubbed Yingke Várnai. In March its Italian branch, Yingke Várnai Luzi Crivellini & Associati, was established in Verona in the form of a joint venture with Italian firm Advoco.

Yingke’s London office is a direct investment and will be managed and operated solely by the firm.

Yingke is yet to reveal more details on the size and practice focus of the office. However, Guo noted that the majority of the partners and lawyers in London will be relocated from its ­domestic Chinese offices and will have experience in advising on Chinese law and foreign investment.

“We don’t aim to provide English legal advice. When we have an English law ­matter we’ll refer it to our relationship firms in the UK,” Guo confirmed.

According to the firm’s website, partners from ­several UK firms, including Caldwell & Robinson, ­Pinsent Masons and Wragge & Co, have visited its China offices in recent months.

To achieve its stated aim of being “China’s Baker & McKenzie” the firm has put plans in place to expand its footprint into Hong Kong, the US, Japan, Australia, Singapore and the Middle East in the coming year.

Concurrent with the London opening the firm will celebrate the establishment of a joint venture in the South Korean capital Seoul with full-service Korean firm Logos Law, which has more than 100 lawyers in Seoul, Beijing, Moscow, Phnom Pehn, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

With 1,583 lawyers, including 179 partners, Yingke is the second-largest law firm in China after Dacheng, which has more than 2,000 lawyers in total.