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Leading global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has appointed three partners to its Mainland China team, specializing in projects and projects-related disputes.

  • Hew Kian Heong is one of the leading international construction and infrastructure disputes lawyers in China, regularly acting for Chinese and international clients in complex cross-border disputes.
  • Ellen Zhang is one of the leading lawyers in the Chinese PPP and outbound investment market, advising Chinese companies on complex project development, investment and financing overseas, particularly in the power and infrastructure sectors. 
  • Michelle Li has a strong reputation in construction and infrastructure disputes, particularly advising Chinese state-owned enterprises on a broad range of project implementation issues and disputes arising from overseas projects.

"Our firm has already captured a healthy amount of Chinese project and investment work generated by China's US$900 billion 'Belt and Road' initiative," said Herbert Smith Freehills CEO Mark Rigotti.

"Adding the transactional and disputes experience on complex projects offered by Hew, Ellen and Michelle will complement our existing team perfectly. I'm delighted to welcome them to the partnership."

The appointments will increase the size of Herbert Smith Freehills' Greater China team to 27 partners and over 170 other legal professionals in Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

"The massive scale of the 'Belt and Road' initiative is generating huge numbers of infrastructure projects across Asia and beyond – and every new project also has the potential for complex disputes," said Justin D'Agostino, Managing Partner, Asia.

"Hew, Ellen and Michelle will join our existing team advising clients on these developments and add essential projects, financing and projects disputes expertise to our offering."


Hew Kian Heong is qualified as an advocate and solicitor in Singapore and is qualified to practice in Hong Kong, and England and Wales. Fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese, he received his LLB from the National University of Singapore. Hew joined Pinsent Masons in Hong Kong as an associate in 1995, rising to his current position as Partner and Head of China at that firm.

Fluent in Mandarin and English, Ellen Zhang is qualified in China and qualified to practice in England and Wales. She has bachelor's degrees in economics and law from Sichuan University and Fudan University respectively, and master's degrees in law and economics and European law from the University of Hamburg and Erasmus University, Rotterdam, respectively.  She joined Pinsent Masons in 2003, working in London, Shanghai, Hong Kong and, since 2010, Beijing, where she currently leads the firm's projects and finance team in Asia Pacific. Ellen became a partner at Pinsent Masons in 2013.

Michelle Li is qualified to practice in Hong Kong and England and Wales and is fluent in English, Cantonese and Mandarin. She received her LLB and PCLL from the University of Hong Kong.  Michelle joined Pinsent Masons as a trainee in Hong Kong in 2001 and became partner at that firm in 2014. She currently splits her time between Beijing and Shanghai.


Operating from 26 offices across Asia Pacific, EMEA and North America, Herbert Smith Freehills is at the heart of the new global business landscape providing premium quality, full-service legal advice. We provide many of the world’s most important organisations with access to market-leading dispute resolution, projects and transactional legal advice, combined with expertise in a number of global industry sectors, including energy, natural resources, infrastructure, technology and financial services.

Herbert Smith Freehills has some 1,500 lawyers in Asia Pacific, advising clients on complex corporate, disputes and finance matters, from offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Hong Kong, Jakarta*, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore and Tokyo, and in Australia, from Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

*In Jakarta, Herbert Smith Freehills' international counsel practise alongside our affiliate firm, Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung, one of Indonesia’s leading commercial and corporate law firms.

Media contact

For further information on this article please contact

Sally Greig

Head of Communications, Asia

Hong Kong