Law firms in the U.S. and the U.K. are planning major global expansions, particularly in China. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by the Law Firm Services Group of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Private Company Services practice. The study finds that law firms both here in the U.S. and across the pond have made significant investments in China and are projecting more than 10% profit growth there in 2008.
More and more corporations are expanding in China. Amid that growth, Executive search firm, A.E. Feldman, reports there is a growing need for U.S. legal services in China as more American companies seek business there. In fact, a number of law firms have already begun staffing up their offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. A.E. Feldman says attorney jobs are opening up at the Senior Associate and Partner level for candidates who are bilingual and have experience in Asia. Among the practice areas in greatest demand: securities, M&A, public and private offerings, private equity and intellectual property. Firms are willing to pay top dollar for candidates who meet these specific needs.
The rising economic tide in Asia as well as the Middle East and Russia, will affect how law firms expand, according to PwC. Stanley Kolodziejczak, Co-Chair of the PwC Law Firm Service Group says, “We expect to see a number of emerging trends including increased profitability of U.S. firms’ foreign offices as they mature, a more in-depth focus on firms opening in China and additional focus on human resource initiatives relating to lateral attorneys and retention issues.”
Expanding in China
Global law firm, Nixon Peabody, recently announced it has opened an office in Shanghai, China. Attorneys in the firm’s China Group are advising clients on how to structure venture capital and private equity investments in China, resolve business and trade disputes, protect and enforce clients’ intellectual property rights, and structure and document acquisitions of Chinese domestic companies.
Scott M. Turner, a Managing Partner of the firm, says the new office positions the firm to help area businesses compete in China – the world’s largest marketplace. In a statement, Nixon Peabody’s Chairman, Harry P. Trueheart, says “Our new Shanghai office offers unique opportunities for our clients’ growing business needs as we help U.S. companies understand and navigate the complexities of doing business in China.”
Diaz, Reus, Rolff & Targ is another international law firm that recently announced its foray into the Asian legal market with an office in Shanghai, according to The National Law Journal. The report quotes the firm’s Managing Partner, Michael Diaz Jr., as saying, “As the world continues its move toward globalization, we feel there is an undeniable and dynamic opportunity in China, because of its successful and consistent trade with Latin America and the Middle East in the rapidly expanding global economy.”
Fulbright & Jaworski has expanded its Asian presence with the addition of five lawyers in Beijing and Hong Kong. The firm established an office in Hong Kong back in 1990 and opened its Beijing office in 2006.
“We are growing and adding depth to our international offices in order to serve better our global clients,” said Steven B. Pfeiffer, Chair of Fulbright’s Executive Committee. “With our presence in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, we believe that we are strategically located where our clients need us to be. An important component of our firm’s international practice involves our representation of clients engaged in business in China.”
Fulbright’s core practice areas in Asia include cross-border transactions, corporate mergers and acquisitions, energy and infrastructure projects and finance. “China continues to be a dynamic and important market for our clients as their global businesses expand,” said Jeffrey A. Blount, Head of Fulbright’s Hong Kong and Beijing offices and Co-Head of the firm’s international practice. “Our presence in Asia is key for our clients, as we continue our long history of cross-border work and build on our strengths.”