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San Francisco firm Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) is spreading its reach across the Chinese market by opening in Shanghai.
The firm is relocating Charles Comey, a Tokyo-based corporate and securities partner, to spearhead the office, which marks MoFo's second base on the mainland since opening in Beijing around five years ago.
The expansion will also help support the firm's Hong Kong office. The office has been established for 20 years and is just one in a network of MoFo's Far East branches, which house around 100 lawyers overall.
Keith Wetmore, chairman at MoFo, said the firm opted for Shanghai because of the increased flow of capital markets work it had witnessed in the region.
"Being in China means that you have to have a presence in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai - it's really about having three legs on the stool," said Wetmore.
Also, it is hoped that the new office will service a number of the firm's large Japanese clients, including Hitachi and Fujitsu, which Wetmore said not only provided corporate deals, but had been a source of patent litigation work.
However, while MoFo continues to expand, other firms have not fared so well in the region. CMS Cameron McKenna, for example, recently shut its Beijing office and scaled back its Hong Kong operation. Dewey Ballantine and Cravath Swaine & Moore both pulled out of Hong Kong, and further afield, Simpson Thacher & Barltett and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe both shut down their branches in Singapore.
MoFo initially wants the staffing of the Shanghai office kept to a minimum, with just two lawyers working out of the site, although the firm does have plans to move out of its temporary office into a permanent space in June.
Overall, the firm enjoyed a steady year in 2002, with turnover increasing by 3 per cent to $505m (£322.2m) and profits per partner rising to $700,000 (£446,600) from a previous $675,000 (£430,700).