International firm Troutman Sanders will be closing its three offices in China, winding down its operations in Asia after operating there for just over two decades, according to an internal announcement made public Tuesday.
The Atlanta-based firm, which has more than 650 lawyers in 16 offices throughout the United States and Asia, opened its Hong Kong office in 1997. It followed with an office in Shanghai in 2007, and Beijing in 2013.
The firm said in a statement that there was not “sufficient” business overlap with the rest of the firm.
“As part of a strategic review and after careful consideration, we have concluded that there is not sufficient overlap between our China practice and our areas of greatest focus,” the firm said.
“As a result, we have decided to cease our operations in China and close our Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing offices effective May 31, 2018.”
The closures will affect about 30 attorneys, including seven partners, in the three offices.
Although Troutman said that in 2017 it had exceeded its financial goals for three years in a row, the Asian operations apparently were not part of its strategic business plan.
“Our strategic plan prioritizes our areas of greatest focus, which include broadly serving the middle market, as well as representing clients in the energy, banking and finance, life sciences and insurance sectors,” the firm said in its statement.
The closures follow a stream of foreign law offices exiting Asia, as they foundered under the competition, strict government regulation and the costs of running an office overseas.
Troutman’s decision followed Winston & Strawn, which last May said that it was consolidating its Asian offices. The Chicago-based firm, citing a need to cut costs, closed offices in Beijing and in Taipei in late 2016 and moved some of those attorneys to its Shanghai and Hong Kong offices.
Also, in the spring of 2017, Dorsey & Whitney, based in Minneapolis, said it would launch a U.S.-China practice but station its attorneys mostly in the United States. The practice goal is to advise Chinese companies about investing in the United States.
The two firms were not the first to pare back or eliminate their presence in China amid fierce competition. In January 2015, Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson shuttered its Hong Kong and Shanghai offices, citing insufficient “growth potential” and in July of that year, Chadbourne & Parke – which has since closed consolidated to become Norton Rose Fulbright -- shut down its Beijing office, which ended its presence in Asia.
Last year, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft also cited the need to focus on core practices when it announced it would close down its Hong Kong and Beijing offices, and lay off 25 lawyers.
The recent China exits from the region continue the stream of departures that in the past 25 years, according to a 2015 study, titled, “The Outpost Office: How International Law Firms Approach the China Market,” from the University of California, Berkeley.
More than two dozen international law firms closed shop in mainland China in that period, and that trend has continued in the past five years.
The news of Troutman’s closing in China was earlier reported by the Asian Lawyer.
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