The Legal Cheek View
Hong Kong corporate law heavyweight Eric Chow built his practice over a period of 12 years at Norton Rose Fulbright, Paul Hastings and Dentons, before setting up his eponymous law firm in August 2018. The Manchester University law graduate is now the managing partner of the local associated office of one of China’s most successful corporate law firms, Commerce & Finance Law Offices, or as it’s often known, Tongshang.
The association formally launched in October 2018, becoming Tongshang’s first base outside mainland China. Since Tongshang had completed 30 Hong Kong initial public offering (IPO) transactions in the past year alone, establishing an office in the region would provide it “with a solid on-the-ground presence in the face of increasing demand for cross-border legal services, in particular fundraising activities involving mainland companies in the local stock market and major stock markets around the world”, Chow said in a statement at the time.
Foreign law firms must operate through an association with a local law firm for at least three years before they localise, as per Law Society of Hong Kong rules, so expect Commerce & Finance Law Offices in association with Eric Chow & Co. to rebrand in due course.
The People’s Republic of China allowed private law firms in 1992 and Tongshang was one of the first to open in the mainland. In the 30 years since its establishment, the Chinese ‘Red Circle’ firm has grown to more than 700 members of staff, including over 100 partners and several hundreds of lawyers. It’s headquartered in Beijing, with offices in Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan and Hong Kong.
In Hong Kong the firm has moved into new digs, occupying one of the top floors (34/F) of Alexandra House in Central, and joining several other household names. It was previously based in nearby Sheung Wan. The office administrative team had a hand in the office design, we hear, and it looks modern and kitted out.
The firm has five partners in Hong Kong, all of whom are trilingual in English, Mandarin and Cantonese. Four of the five partners, including Chow, specialise in capital markets. They aim to provide a “one-stop shop” on all matters relating to capital markets transactions, including IPOs of securities in both domestic and international stock exchanges, secondary offerings, bond issuances, mergers and acquisitions, takeovers and joint ventures, to name but a few. In June 2022, litigation partner Christy Leung joined from Winston & Strawn to set up the contentious practice.
The firm takes on four trainees a year, selected from its winter and summer vacation schemes. The trainees report a good work/life balance on the whole, finishing work most days around 8:30pm, our 2022-23 Hong Kong Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey shows.