US law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges to end mainland China operation

The firm is currently in discussions regarding the future of its Shanghai office

US law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges to end mainland China operation

The U.S. law firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges has announced its decision to withdraw from the Chinese market, Reuters reported.

The firm confirmed the closure of its Beijing office on December 31 and is currently in discussions regarding the future of its Shanghai office, signalling a shift in its regional approach. This decision marks Weil as the latest in a series of U.S. law firms reevaluating their presence in China amid an increasingly challenging environment for foreign businesses.

The firm's spokesperson stated, "We will be working out the details in the coming months, but we remain dedicated to our award-winning Asia practice and to providing top service to our clients in the region."

Details regarding the fate of the Beijing office's staff remain undisclosed, and the firm's website now shows a reduced presence in Shanghai, listing six employees, one of whom is a partner. Two of these Shanghai-based employees are also listed as part of the firm's larger Hong Kong office, which boasts over 20 lawyers and staff.

According to Reuters, the pullback comes amid broader retreats from the Chinese market by U.S. and international law firms, driven by increased regulatory pressures and a complex geopolitical landscape. New Chinese government regulations on data privacy and cybersecurity have posed significant challenges, prompting global law firm Dentons to dissolve its partnership with Chinese law firm Dacheng last year.

Other firms, including Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, have also adjusted their Chinese operations, with Orrick planning to consolidate its presence in Beijing. Economic downturns have further influenced decisions, such as Linklaters' recent layoffs of 30 China-based lawyers.

This trend is underscored by data from Leopard Solutions, which revealed that 32 of the 73 largest U.S. law firms in China have reduced their attorney counts over the past decade, with significant drawdowns in Beijing since 2018.

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