International Legal News Roundup: Patton Boggs forced into US$15 million pay-out

by NZ Lawyer14 May 2014
Linklaters considering tie-up with Chinese firm pending clarity on Shanghai FTZ rules

Linklaters is considering plans to ally with a top-tier Chinese law firm under incoming regulations allowing joint work between international and local firms in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ).

The magic circle firm is looking at the possibility of tying up with a Chinese outfit so it can offer PRC law advice to clients in core practices such as corporate, finance and litigation.

Initiated in September 2013, the Shanghai FTZ is the first significant step by the Chinese government to begin opening up the country's service sectors.

Outside of Shanghai, Linklaters is also looking to grow its offices in Korea and Singapore, having opened an office in Seoul and acquired its Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence in Singapore last year.
Lateral hires: DLA Piper loses Miami partners, gains Melbourne partner, and more

Three years after setting up DLA Piper’s Miami office, international arbitration partners Pedro Martinez-Fraga and C Ryan Reetz are heading to Bryan Cave, where the pair will open the latter’s new Miami outpost and co-head its dispute resolution group. Meanwhile, DLA Piper’s Melbourne office has poached insolvency and commercial litigation partner Kon Tsiakis from leading Australian firm HWL Ebsworth.

Despite a recent round of layoffs, Winston & Strawn has hired a four-strong corporate team in Hong Kong and a three-partner IP team in San Francisco.

Korula “Sunny” Cherian, the co-head of Hogan Lovells’ US IP group, is joining the firm, along with patent litigation partners Scott Wales and Constance Ramos. All three previously practiced together at Howrey. When the trio left the now-defunct firm in early 2011, Cherian reportedly had US$10m in business.

White & Case has lost banking & finance partner Kate Allchurch in Singapore to British firm Ashurst. Also leaving the firm is London arbitration partner Paul Cowan, who has reportedly become a barrister at 4 New Square.

Baker & McKenzie will open its third Australian office in Brisbane this summer by poaching antitrust partner Jo Daniels and energy partner Darren Fooks from Allens and Clayton Utz, respectively.
Legal market resurgent in UAE

An upturn in M&A activity and growing interest from Asian investors are reportedly enhancing the longstanding appeal of the United Arab Emirates to international law firms.

The UAE was hit hard by the GFC, as well as its own financial and real estate crisis in 2008/09. However, Dubai’s property market and tourism industry are experiencing a resurgence, with new hotels, shopping centres and a US$1bn replica of the Taj Mahal among the development projects planned.

This is positive news for UAE-based international law firms, which are also capitalising on the growth in Islamic finance work in the Middle East and elsewhere and an increase in M&A activity.

Baker & McKenzie established an office in Abu Dhabi in February 2009 and last year gained a presence in Dubai through a merger with local firm Habib Al Mulla & Co.  
Other firms that have launched in the UAE or expanded their presence over the past year include CMS Cameron McKenna, Addleshaw Goddard, Morgan Lewis and Stephenson Harwood. 
Patton Boggs to pay Chevron US$15m in retreat from Ecuador

Patton Boggs has agreed to pay oil giant Chevron $US15m and give up its stake in a US$9.5bn environmental judgment following claims the firm backed a fraudulent lawsuit against the corporation.

Patton Boggs' co-counsel Steven Donziger has lashed out at the deal, calling it a betrayal of the Ecuadorean villagers they jointly represented.

Patton Boggs disclosed the US$15m payment to Chevron in a 22-page settlement agreement. As part of the agreement, the firm will withdraw from representing the plaintiffs who won the Ecuadorean judgment.

However, Patton Boggs is just the latest Chevron adversary to put up a white flag. The litigation funder Burford Capital, which initially funded Patton Boggs' work on the Lago Agrio litigation, renounced its involvement in April last year. That same month, an environmental consulting firm said it "deeply regretted" its involvement in the case and admitted to helping Donziger ghost-write a supposedly independent report by a court-appointed expert.