HFW defies sanctions row with China expansion

International firm HFW has continued to bolster its presence in China despite tension in the legal community, saying it remains ‘deeply committed to the market’.

Under plans to expand in Asia, HFW has recruited senior partner Brinton Scott and of counsel Danielle Peng for its Shanghai office. Scott joins HFW from Winston & Strawn, where he was Shanghai managing partner, while Peng was legal senior director, Asia Pacific, at Cooper Standard, a US automotive systems company.


HFW became the second international law firm to secure a local association under the Shanghai Free Trade Zone rules in 2016. It went on to open a transactional practice in Shanghai in 2019 and poached a nine-lawyer corporate finance team for its Hong Kong office the same year. It now has now has 78 lawyers in greater China.

Nick Poynder, Shanghai office head, said: ‘We’ve been fortunate to bring in some fantastic corporate lawyers in China over the past few years and feel that we’re building something really special here. We remain deeply committed to the market and plan to continue to expand to ensure we’re offering our clients the best possible service.’

In March, the Chinese government sparked anger among lawyers after imposing sanctions against Essex Court Chambers – a commercial set based in London. The sanctions came after four members gave a legal opinion relating to issues arising from alleged human rights violations against the Uyghur population.

Barristers across the British Isles condemned the ‘bullying and punitive measures’, saying the sanctions ‘call into question [China’s] commitment to the rule of law, as well as its status and reputation as a reliable partner in international trade and commerce’.

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