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Shearman & Sterling is gearing up to launch in Shanghai within the year, with plans to transfer a large section of its Hong Kong team across to the new office.
Beijing managing partner Lee Edwards said the firm expected to have the Shanghai office, its second in mainland China, operational by the fourth quarter of 2006 or the first quarter of 2007.
It is understood that Shearman is awaiting regulatory approval from China's Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for its Shanghai licence, which it hopes will be granted by either November or March.
Should the office gain approval, Shearman project finance partner Andrew Ruff will transfer across from Hong Kong to head the new operation.
It is understood that several associates will also move across, including the Hong Kong project finance team, resulting in a notable downsizing of the firm's Hong Kong presence.
Shearman's Hong Kong office currently consists of four partners, one counsel and nine associates.
Edwards said: "We're concentrating our efforts to staff our China work out of China, so we're looking to staff up Beijing and Shanghai as a focus."
Shearman has battled to keep pace with its New York rivals in recent years and its Asian operations have been under increasing pressure to improve profitability.
In 2005 the firm reported a profit per equity partner (PEP) of $1.39m (£752,000), more than a $1m (£541,000) short of New York rivals Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and Sullivan & Cromwell.
The move also follows the loss of notable capital markets partner Leiming Chen from the Hong Kong office in April, who left to head US rival Simpson Thacher & Bartlett's Beijing office.
Firm: DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary Germany Managing partner: Ulrich Jüngst Total number of lawyers: 80 Total number of partners: 20 Main practice areas: Corporate, banking Key client: Discovery Channel
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