Duane Morris: Good morning Vietnam

Philadelphia-headquartered firm Duane Morris has confirmed its intention to open in Vietnam, only the second US firm to do so, opening two offices by March in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

It has also formerly launched its Singapore office this week, with lateral hires from the local offices of DLA Piper, White & Case, Baker & McKenzie, Jones Day and Shearman & Sterling.

The Singapore office will be headed by corporate partner Eduardo Ramos-Gomez, who was the Mexican ambassador to Singapore, Brunei and Myanmar before joining Duane Morris.

It is understood that it is Ramos-Gomez’s standing in the region that is driving the firm’s Asian expansion.

The firm’s new Singapore office includes Rudy Lim, a project finance partner from DLA Piper, and four more partners. The firm said in a statement that it hoped to hire about four more associates in the coming weeks.

The Singapore office will offer expertise particularly in corporate finance, project finance, energy, real estate, TMT and M&A.

The Vietnamese will mirror these capabilities. Doug Woloshin, Duane Morris’ new global head of project finance, will be instrumental in setting up the firm’s Vietnamese presence.

Baker & McKenzie is the only other US-headquartered firm to retain offices in Vietnam, where it has 10 fee-earners across Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Gide Loyrette Nouel are also among the foreign firms to have a Vietnamese offering.

As first reported in The Lawyer (27 November 2006), Duane Morris had a year-long planning process to enlarge its global footprint, with a particular view to ramping up its Asian presence.

It is hoped that having lawyers on the ground in Asia will help Duane Morris move into China. It already has some work with domestic Chinese corporates, including Shanghai Huizhong Automotive Manufacturing.

Firm chairman Sheldon Bonovitz said: “Our move into Asia by way of Singapore will firmly launch Duane Morris as a significant factor in this fast-growing part of the world economy.”