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Norton Rose has selected the lawyers to lead its charge into China, poaching two French-qualified partners from Vovan & Associés to head the office there.
Norton Rose's international network is understood to have attracted Jean-Marc Deschandol and Virginie Deslandres to the firm. The UK firm has still to gain approval for its application to open an office in Beijing. The move to establish a strong China team is part of a concerted effort to gain ground in South East Asia. An agreement with former Hong Kong ally Johnson Stokes & Master meant that Norton Rose had to pull out of Hong Kong for three years. April 2002 marks the end of that period and the reopening of its office. The firm's head of Asia Paul Giles said that a general slowdown throughout Asia made China the main market in the region. International firms have been putting out their stalls, hiring and preparing the ground for China's accession to the World Trade Organisation. He said: "We felt that, as a driver for our Hong Kong practice, we'd need people with China experience." Deschandol and Deslandres have been active in China since the mid-1980s, running Vovan's base in Beijing. Giles says the China group would concentrate on its strengths, notably corporate, restructurings and projects work, with the Olympics in 2008 expected to deliver a slew of projects-related work. Both of the hires have acted on large infrastructure projects in China.