The Solicitors Regulation Authority has licensed a unique Chinese-owned alternative business structure targeting Chinese companies looking to invest abroad.
YangTze Law, based in London, has been set up in association with Exeter-headquartered law firm Michelmores, which will provide legal back-office and regulatory services. Michelmores’ managing partner, Malcolm Dickinson, will also serve as CEO of the new firm.
YangTze Law, which plans to open offices in Hong Kong and New York in the next year, is the brainchild of British educated Steve Ng, a partner with Ng & Shum Solicitors in Hong Kong and Beijing, and Winston Gao, a senior partner at Jun Yan Law Firm in Shenzhen. It is an ABS because neither are practising solicitors here.
Mr Ng is also secretary-general of the YangTzejiang Legal Network, which has over 40 independent law firm members throughout China with more than 3,000 lawyers.
Mr Ng said: “YangTze Law is a Chinese firm for Chinese clients. It has the support of our legal network and its client base. We see our target market as Chinese businesses who have no representation abroad. We are not here to step on anyone’s toes but to expand Chinese participation in the UK market.
“There are an increasing number of Chinese firms looking to invest and do business in or through the UK but for whom cultural and legal differences can be a real barrier… YangTze Law will fulfil a need that has not previously been met by the UK legal market and, over the near to long term, will help to unlock the door for a new group of Chinese investors.”
Mr Dickinson said he has worked with the founding partners on the project for the last two years, and spent two of the last 12 months in China.
He said: “We see YangTze Law as a unique opportunity for Michelmores, to access the Chinese market in a different way. Chinese corporates are being pointed by their government towards foreign direct investment, and so we feel like it is great timing to be involved in a venture like this, and support Chinese clients in navigating their way through the UK and global business landscapes.
“We are already seeing significant work opportunities arising from this innovative idea.”
Mr Gao added: “We have a unique proposition and one which will be well-received by the Chinese business community. It has already created high levels of interest and I am convinced that it will have a bright future.”
The new firm has gathered a range of endorsements, with Stephen Denyer, head of City and international for the Law Society, saying: “I am delighted that a new type of Chinese legal service provider is coming to London and doing so in collaboration with an English law firm. This underlines the important global role of London as a legal hub and the attractiveness of our jurisdiction.”
Wang Keyou, deputy general counsel of global communication corporation ZTE, described the new firm as “a small but significant step on the road to the internationalisation of the Chinese legal profession”.