Opening an office in Hong Kong was a logical next step for Clayton Utz, according to national litigation managing partner Stuart Clark.
Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Clark said the firm's decision to break with tradition and open a branch in Asia was prompted by a realisation that demand for their services and growing opportunities required a permanent presence.
"We have traditionally adopted a different course to some of our competitors, and that was not to open overseas offices, but to pursue work where we thought we had a real market advantage - where we could really offer something special, where we had market-leading expertise, profile and experience - and then do it on a fly-in, fly-out basis," said Clark.
"It was becoming clear to us that our level of activity in the region was increasing in a couple of areas, being the construction major projects space - where we have a real reputation - related dispute resolution work, and international arbitration."
Clayton Utz is now operating in association with local firm Haley & Co - as is required by Hong Kong law - and in around three years time the firm will commence operating as Clayton Utz.
Clark is adamant that the plans to open the Hong Kong branch far preceded Allen & Overy's announcement that they were coming to Australia, and sees the move as a chance to operate more effectively within the region.
"I think all Australian firms are looking to pursue opportunities both inside and outside Australia," he said.
"But there is no point in doing something like this unless you have something really special to offer. There is an abundance of very high quality firms operating all through the region and if you are to really make a success of it, you have to go there with something special so you can compete."
Clark is confident that the firm has the goods - and the reputation - to successfully and permanently broaden the practice into Hong Kong and is excited about the opportunities which will arise as a result, especially for staff.
"It is a great opportunity for Clayton Utz lawyers. We already have a very healthy amount of secondments into the region and other parts of the world," he said.
"Now we have the opportunity to give people the chance to work in Hong Kong in what is effectively a Clayton Utz office. That is very exciting, and we are seeing a lot of interest."
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