Eversheds is planning to open an office in Shanghai after being encouraged by clients to do so because of the city's rapidly expanding manufacturing industries
The firm is also keen to enter the city - the fastest growing in the world - after China's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) this year. Alan Jenkins, who in April replaced Victor Semmens as Eversheds' head of international, returned last Friday (30 August) after a tour of Chinese law firms. He said they regarded any move by Eversheds to Shanghai as being "mutually beneficial", and he described Shanghai's Bureau of Justice as being "open" to the idea. Support from local firms is essential, as Chinese government regulations state that foreign firms have to work through local firms. International firms are also banned from setting up joint partnerships with Chinese firms. Foreign lawyers, then, cannot provide advice on Chinese law or appear in Chinese courts. Jenkins said: "The spur has been China's entry into the WTO and increased interest in Shanghai on the part of clients, who to a large extent are focused on its expanding manufacturing industries. Having a representative office would make it easier to find the right Chinese law firms for the work. "There's no time frame for entry, but once I've reported to the firm I hope it will be done quickly rather than slowly." Shanghai is, in the words of Andrew Cutler, managing partner of Holman Fenwick & Willan's Shanghai office, "the place for lawyers to be in the Far East". Since Holman took over Shanghai firm Bull Housser & Tupper in May 2001, it has more than doubled its number of lawyers to 15. Favourable reports by the British-China Trade Council and investment banks, as well as growing interest from law firms, also point to the city's growing importance. Lawyers regard Shanghai as a useful base for servicing clients in both the city's massively expanding commercial base as well as to China's northern borders. Eversheds already services part of China as a result of its link-up with Singapore practice Khattar Wong & Partners in September 2000, which created a 1,910-lawyer practice.