Linklaters wasted little time expanding into Asia. In 2004, the firm hired two senior Japanese lawyers together with 20 associates. A year later, it completed Japan’s first international merger, absorbing Mitsui Yasuda Wani & Maeda, Japan’s sixth-largest law firm at the time. This has led to some lucrative deals including advising Softbank on the launch of its Vision Fund: the world’s largest-ever technology investment fund in 2017.
In 2012 this was affirmed by an exclusive alliance with Australian firm Allens. The partnership provided access to lawyers and client referrals across the other side of the globe without the typical costs associated with a partnership. This is an approach it has also mirrored in South Africa in its alliance with Webber Wentzel. In 2017 the firm reviewed five years with alliance partner Allens and plans have been made for more secondments and training between the two firms.
Meanwhile, Linklaters celebrated 25 years in Singapore in 2017. Like Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, the firm can hire Singaporean lawyers and practice local law thanks to its Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licence. Though the firms will be aware that the Singapore Ministry of Law recently announced its decision to review licences in 2020.
Linklaters has also made great strides to offer local law capability in China. Its ‘Project Trident’ began as a search for a merger partner in the country, but the firm later changed course and adopted the ‘greenfield’ option, which saw three partners and 16 associates leave Linklaters to set up a new firm, Zhao Sheng. This move was made possible thanks to the Shanghai Free Trade-Zone regime, which allows tie-ups between international and domestic firms, provided the domestic firm has been independent for at least three years. For now, Linklaters has formed a best-friends relationship with the domestic firm, with plans to establish a joint venture in two to three years. This capability will complement its existing M&A, project finance and capital markets practice in the region, offering an integrated service for its clients, and could make it the first in the magic circle to practice Chinese law.