Linklaters is set to become the latest international law firm with a presence in Shanghai’s free-trade zone (FTZ).

The firm has reportedly dispatched three partners and 16 associates to set up a new local firm, Zhao Sheng, with a view to entering a joint operation. It will be the fourth international firm to establish a tie-up in the FTZ after Hogan Lovells, Baker & McKenzie and Holman Fenwick Willan.

Having rejected the strategy of entering an association with an existing firm, Linklaters has been working on winning the approvals needed to set up an independent firm, which will allow it to refer Chinese law matters to Zhao Sheng.

christopher holt“We continue to pursue our aspiration to provide clients with access to a dedicated PRC law capability in China,” Chris Holt, chief operating officer of Linklaters China, is reported to have said. “Taking account of recent developments in the market, we have begun detailed discussions with an existing PRC law firm to enter into a ‘best friends’ relationship with a view at some point in the future to enter into a Shanghai Free Trade Zone joint operation.”

Holt says that the ‘best friends” relationship will be announced in the next two to three months once discussions have concluded.

“Market shifts have indicated that outbound work and high-end domestic transactions will become ever more important for our business,” said Holt. “We believe that being able to offer integrated Chinese and international law advice will help us to protect our competitive advantage both in China and globally.”

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