Legal firms Johnson Stokes & Master (JSM) and Norton Rose will terminate their 22-year association on March 31 next year. The move, initiated by British-based Norton Rose, follows failed negotiations to restructure their partnership to reflect changing local and international legal market conditions, Norton Rose managing partner David Stannard said yesterday. 'We tried to change the services offered and to strengthen the branding aspect,' he said. JSM senior partner Simon Ip said the two firms had different growth strategies. 'Norton Rose aspires to a global franchise while JSM is concentrating its resources on expanding the mainland and Asian market where appropriate,' Mr Ip said. Norton Rose - with five partners based in Hong Kong - provided corporate finance, banking and marine litigation services for JSM under an association agreement, which meant Norton Rose rented office space within JSM with a clear separation between the two firms' activities. Under the terms of the termination, Norton Rose is prohibited from practising law in Hong Kong for three years, at the end of which it plans to return. Observers said they doubted whether many of JSM's corporate clients would continue using the firm since much of the corporate finance advisory work was handled by Norton Rose. However long-time JSM and Norton Rose client Hongkong Bank said the split would have no material effect as it had confidence in JSM's expertise. Hongkong Bank chief executive David Eldon said JSM would continue as the banking group's principal legal adviser. A retiring Norton Rose partner was recently seconded to London-based parent HSBC Holdings as a director. 'I believe it was an amicable split . . . it has no effect on us - we will continue to use JSM as our principal legal advisers in Hong Kong,' he said.