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US law firm expanding presence in China
By Xiao Huo (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-10-25 09:02

LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae LLp, one of the world's largest law firms, will expand its two key business sectors - energy and insurance, to two more Chinese business hubs.

"We have been thinking about (opening an office in) Shanghai and we are also looking at Hong Kong where a lot of Chinese companies have been looking for their listing," Steven Davis, the firm's chairman, said in a recent interview in Beijing at the firm's head office.

The move could allow the firm - which has been in China since 1999 - to establish a presence of more than one office ahead of many of its competitors. Prior to the move, about 20 foreign law firms have been granted permission to establish second offices.

"In addition to having a head office in Beijing, it is a great chance ... to have additional offices in other places," Davis said. "The two sites we are looking carefully at are Shanghai and Hong Kong - with a little different focus for each one."

The chairman is here with several top-profile figures from his firm to develop a strategic growth.

"We need to have more lawyers on the ground here," said Ingrid Zhu, managing partner of the New York-based legal service giant in China.

The company has about 10 staffers, with three lawyers at it's Beijing office.

"If we continue to be a global law firm, we must have a very sizable practice in China,"said Davis. "The future is here."

With two core areas of interest - energy and insurance - the company has a presence in many cities worldwide, including New York, London, Paris, Moscow, in addition to Beijing.

"We are building our presence in those two areas - energy and insurance," said Davis. "It is very logical for us to have a major push in our speciality sectors in China."

The fields provide about 60-70 per cent of its revenues, with litigation centring on capital markets, initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers and acquisitions and business disputes, Davis explained.

"Our focus is always trying to position ourselves in the top-end of the legal market, given our strengths, and we will work for both non-Chinese coming into the Chinese market and Chinese companies looking out to raise capital and to make investments," the chairman said.

The company was licensed to operate in Beijing in 1999, when foreign law firms could only be licensed to have once office in China.

"We have not made any conclusion yet (on the new location). We want to conclude our analysis certainly before the end of the year," Davis said."We could begin our implementation by the early part of next year or even this year."

Within one year of its entry into World Trade Organization (WTO), China lifted restrictions against foreign law firms in setting-up additional offices here.

But foreign law firms doing business cannot employ Chinese lawyers to provide legal services, which is a step that could slow up the business expansion of foreign law firms.

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