Morrison & Foerster

International top 30 position: 30
Asia-Pacific International 50 rank: 13

To read about this firm’s Asia Pacific practice, please click here

The Asia Pacific profile is an edited version of a full write-up that appears in The Lawyer Asia Pacific 150, a comprehensive analysis of the legal market in the region that ranks the top 100 local firms and leading 50 international players by headcount. For more information and to purchase your copy please click here

Morrison & Foerster (MoFo) posted global revenues of $963.3m in 2011 with the firm’s 15-partner London office contributing $33.5m. The UK figure represented a 4.2 per cent drop on the firm’s 2010 performance but allowed the firm to make the cut at number 30 in The Lawyer’s International Top 30 ranking of the largest global firms in London by turnover.  

In January 2013 the firm continued its Asian expansion strategy by opening an office in Singapore, its fifth in the region. The move means that the firm now boasts 16 offices globally, including five in Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.

Eric Piesner, managing partner for Asia and head of the firm's Asia real estate practice, will lead the office. ‘We already have a substantial base of business with a Singapore nexus, including clients with M&A, real estate, project finance, dispute resolution, TMT, private equity and tax needs. We see our presence in Singapore as an opportunity to further help clients in these and other areas,’ he said in a statement.

In the UK the firm landed a role advising a group of creditors on the administration of music retailer HMV. City litigation partner Jonathan Wheeler is leading a MoFo team acting for a roster of HMV’s supplier creditors, including Warner Music UK, Paramount Home Entertainment, Cinram, Arvato, Channel 4 and ITV, as well as three Sony businesses encompassing Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment UK and Sony DADC UK. Wheeler is joined on the US firm’s advisory team by London litigation associate.

The firm posted contentious revenues of $443.2m in 2011 placing it 21st in The Lawyer Global Litigation Top 50.

Asia Pacific

No. of lawyers: 168
Offices: 5

There is no doubt that China is the fashionable jurisdiction in Asia-Pacific, but this San Francisco-based global firm slightly bucks the trend by focusing much of its energies on a market it has been in for the last 26 years — Japan. The firm claims to be the largest international practice in Tokyo, with a 130-lawyer strong contingent, at least 50 of whom are locally qualified. 

“We have a large presence in Japan,” acknowledges Eric Piesner, managing partner of the firm's Singapore office and the firm-wide managing partner for Asia, “and our broad strategy is to continue our market dominance in that jurisdiction.”

The firm views the China market as the flip side of the coin from Japan. While it is growing economically and in influence, the firm argues that from a legal perspective “it is a challenging market” says Piesner.

MoFo's approach in China is to “focus on the things we are good at elsewhere”. That means technology-related work, outbound litigation for Chinese companies with disputes in the US, real estate instructions, which the firm also picks up across the region, as well as some M&A.

The firm's wariness about the crowed China market extends to Korea. It is unlikely the firm will apply any time soon for a Seoul licence. “We're not saying we would never go,” says Piesner, “but at the moment, it's not on our list.”

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1 Ropemaker Street

Global revenue 2011 ($m): 963.3
Global lawyers 2011: 1,026
No. of lawyers (Asia Pacific): 168
Offices (Asia Pacific): 5