Greater ChinaMaritime CEORegulatory

Howse Williams Bowers: HK’s top independent law firm

Hong Kong: One of Hong Kong’s newest law firms continues to grow and grow.

Fully 50 staff including 15 lawyers left Reed Smith’s Hong Kong arm at the end of 2011 to join the new independent Hong Kong firm Howse Williams Bowers (HWB).

HWB was established by Chris Howse, Chris Williams and Kevin Bowers and has been in operation since 1 January 2012.
The majority of the 50 staff who jumped ship to the new firm had worked at Richards Butler’s Hong Kong office prior to its merger with Reed Smith in 2008.

Howse, a lawyer in Hong Kong since 1981, says that when it comes to independent law firms with maritime expertise in the territory, “We are now it.”

HWB now has 16 partners with the arrival of Jonathan Silver from Norton Rose to focus on ship finance. A 17th is in the offing.

The total staff at HWB is 100, with fee earning staff standing at around 50.

Howse says the firm is expanding the contentious side of the business while slowly building up corporate business too.
Ship finance is a new addition to HWB with Silver’s arrival, and a ship finance team is being built up. “Being in Hong Kong inevitably much of the ship finance we will handle will have a China angle to it,” says Howse.

Judging the markets, Howse notes: “Things picking up on the finance side. Lots of clients are buying ships. Ship values have hit rock bottom and we will only see them go up again. It is surprising since freight rates are down.”

HWB has been involved in a lot of cases involving nickel ore cargoes, including the Trans Summer, which sank off Hong Kong two weeks ago. Another source of employment for the law firm has been with problems arising from cargoes liquefying. HWB is also involved in the recent tragic ferry collision in the Philippines in which more than 100 people lost their lives, the law firm representing the ferry operator 2Go. There’s also a case involving a stranded Chinese bulker off Korea, the Fusheng Hai, that’s keeping HWB’s team busy too.

“There’s a lot going on,” admits Howse, “it’s surprising really with where rates are at the moment.”  [29/08/13]

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