Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on lateral partner moves from Lateral Link’s team of expert contributors. Today’s post is written by Nicholas Goseland, a Director at Lateral Link, where he oversees attorney placements and client services in California and Asia.

Seeking to chart a course for China, Fenwick & West recently moved quickly to recruit a pair of corporate partners, Eva Wang and Carmen Chang (who will serve as a part-time advisor), to spearhead the firm’s new office in Shanghai. The move is already paying dividends.

Less than two months after her arrival, Wang, who once served as VP and general counsel of Spreadtrum Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: SPRD), has secured a mandate to represent Spreadtrum in its announced acquisition by Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. for $1.78 billion. The deal will present numerous cross-selling opportunities for Fenwick partners in the coming year and generate a lucrative stream of fees for the firm, which has already assigned 16 attorneys to the matter….

To understand the genesis of this move, we need to look back to August 2010, when crosstown rival Wilson Sonsini elevated Weiheng Chen to serve as the lead partner for the firm’s new Hong Kong office. The addition of Chen, a Sullivan & Cromwell and Milbank alum, marked a departure from the firm’s traditional PE/VC platform and a clear pivot toward high-end M&A and securities work. Chen wasted no time implementing the new strategy, bringing in Kefei Li from Skadden as a partner in 2011, followed by Zhan Chen from Davis Polk in 2012.

However, not everyone was satisfied with the shift. Within one year of Chen’s arrival, nearly every member of Wilson Sonsini’s Shanghai office, including then-Asia head Carmen Chang and Eva Wang, left the firm to join Covington & Burling. Nearly one year later, Fenwick becomes the unintended beneficiary of that departure, acquiring from Covington both Wang and the Spreadtrum/Tsinghua deal, which, ironically, is the very type of transaction Wilson Sonsini’s new strategy is designed to target.

Fenwick’s recent move demonstrates how pivotal – and, in some cases, immediately impactful — a lateral addition can be to a firm’s growth. For that matter, so does Wilson Sonsini’s, which has fared well since adding Chen — recently opening an additional office in Beijing and securing a seat on the panels of several high profile state-owned enterprises in China. With the success both firms have enjoyed, along with the recent uptick in deal activity between SV and China, it’s no surprise we continue to hear from peer firms with similar ambitions. We expect this trend to continue.

Disclosure: This series is sponsored by Lateral Link, which is an ATL advertiser.


Lateral Link LLP is one of the largest legal recruiting agencies in the world, with 13 offices in the United States and Asia. Lateral Link has been recognized by the Wall Street Journal, The American Lawyer, the ABA Journal, the Daily Journal, and the National Law Journal for its innovative approach to legal placement. Lateral Link recruiters are former practicing attorneys who have consistently succeeded in placing partners, associates, general and corporate counsel into some of the most reputable law firms and organizations in the world.