Duane Morris ramps up in Asia and the US

Philadelphia-based Duane Morris is ramping up its global footprint with a new office in Singapore and planned expansion in Baltimore and Vietnam.

In its first foray into Asia, the 619-lawyer firm will open in Singapore by March 2007, said a firm spokesman, after planning that has lasted at least a year.

Corporate partner and former Mexican ambassador to Singapore, Myanmar and Brunei, Eduardo Ramos-Gómez, will spearhead the Singapore office, moving from New York. Two other local recruits have also been signed, the objective being that fewer than 10 lawyers will be needed.

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.

The firm is looking to gain leverage from Ramos-Gómez’s reputation in the region. It is understood that Duane Morris is looking at other jurisdictions in which to launch, including Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the firm is continuing its US growth and is looking to open in Baltimore by picking off teams with expertise in corporate and litigation.

The openings show that chairman Sheldon Bonovitz’s plans to expand the firm to 1,000 lawyers by 2010 are coming to fruition. Duane Morris turned over $290m (£151.78m) in 2005 and intends to fuel its growth by acquisitions rather than lateral hires.

Its aggressive growth comes after a double-digit increase in profit in the last financial year. Average profit per equity partner for the year stood at $675,000 (£355,000).

The firm’s New York team is moving from its listed premises on Lexington Avenue to the former Bertelsmann Building off Times Square, where the rent is $70 (£36.80) per sq ft.

Duane Morris’s only other international office is in London. That office also expects to double its headcount within five years.