Fast boat to China

McDermott Will & Emery bypasses Hong Kong as it launches a China presence.

Kirkland & Ellis' recent opening of an office in Hong Kong is typical of foreign law firms seeking a slice of private equity action in China. Kirkland transferred private equity partner David Patrick Eich from London to head the office; Eich will be assisted by Mandarin speakers Chuan Li and Tai Hsia from Kirkland's Chicago and London offices, respectively.

A number of foreign firms with a presence in Hong Kong have established a presence in the mainland, but McDermott Will & Emery is jumping straight into the fray. The Chicago law firm, with 14 offices globally and none in Asia, is going where no other law firm has gone ?it has set up a formal joint venture with a local Chinese law firm.

McDermott is marketing MWE China Law Offices as a ?strategic alliance? with Yuan Da Law Offices of Shanghai, but the entity leaves potential clients and observers with no doubts about its identity: ?We are a Chinese law firm,? reads its homepage.

The move may have in part come as a response to the Shanghai Bar Association's memo, which last April accused foreign firms of ?threatening China's legal system and economic safety? by allegedly practicing Chinese law illegally, evading taxes, engaging in false advertising and establishing or controlling Chinese firms.

For now, MWE's reputation is riding heavily on that of its two founding partners, John Z.L. Huang and Kevin Y. Qian, both who joined from Allbright Law Offices, the second largest law firm in China. Huang, one of the four founding partners of Allbright, is an expert in foreign venture capital, private equity, intellectual property law, and international arbitration and litigation. Qian was chair of Allbright's corporate practice and served as a member of its executive committee. He focuses on financial, commercial and intellectual property law, and has worked on M&A, venture capital and syndicated loan deals.

Huang and Qian's backgrounds exemplify the type of talent the legal industry believes is ideal for China. Both are Chinese natives bilingual in Mandarin Chinese and English, with first law degrees from China and advanced law degrees from the West. Additionally, Qian is a member of the American bar and China law associations and has worked for San Francisco law firm Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw & Pittman).

Durham rejoins Simmons & Simmons in Shanghai
Matthew Durham is rejoining Simmons & Simmons in Shanghai from Linklaters. Durham joins the corporate group, focusing on M&A, foreign direct investment and other corporate-commercial transactions. Durham previously spent nine years with Simmons & Simmons in London, China and the Middle East. Six of those nine years were spent in the firm's Shanghai office. Separately, Simmons & Simmons has opened its second office in the Netherlands. The new Amsterdam office will focus on advising Dutch financial institutions. Its other Dutch office, in Rotterdam, services the energy and infrastructure, life sciences, and telecommunications, media and technology sectors.

Nixon Peabody expands to Silicon Valley
US law firm Nixon Peabody is bringing in five lawyers from Silicon Valley Law Group to start its Silicon Valley practice. The practice will focus on venture capital and emerging growth. James Chapman, founder of Silicon Valley Law Group and chairman of its corporate and securities group, joins as partner in Nixon Peabody's venture capital, emerging growth and technology practice. The other attorneys are Lisa Chapman, counsel, labor and employment; Stephen Clinton, counsel, venture capital, emerging growth and technology; and Michael Schachter and Wanli Xu, both associates in the venture capital, emerging growth and technology practices. The office, Nixon's sixteenth, will also be its third in California, after Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Gibson Dunn adds Latin American expert
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher has recruited William Candelaria as partner in its New York office. Candelaria, previously partner at Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw, practices in the areas of M&A, private equity and capital markets, with a focus on emerging markets, and in particular, Latin America and Mexico. Candelaria's clients have included Société Générale, CEMEX, Empresa ICA, Aeroinvest, Grupo Elektra and TV Azteca, private Mexican hedge funds and Latin American subsidiaries of Fleet Bank and BankBoston.

Davis Polk opens Beijing office
New York-based Davis Polk & Wardwell has been granted a license to open an office in Beijing. The office will be headed by Show-Mao Chen, who has been a partner in Davis Polk's Hong Kong office since 2000. Chen is a member of the firm's corporate department and has worked on venture capital investments, IPOs, privatizations and other securities offerings. ?Mainland China has been a key strategic focus of the firm since we opened our Hong Kong office in 1993,? said John Ettinger, managing partner, in a statement. ?With a full-time presence on the ground in Beijing we hope to further expand our success in serving companies and financial institutions venturing into China, as well as increase our representation of Chinese companies as they contemplate and execute global transactions.? Davis Polk also has an office in Tokyo.

Linklaters nabs Bagshaw from Clifford Chance

London magic circle law firm Linklaters has hired Ian Bagshaw from rival Clifford Chance, where he was named partner in 2004. Bagshaw, who has clients include The Blackstone Group, Candover Investments and Macquarie Group, is considered a private equity star, reportedly the second highest biller in London in 2005-2006. His appointment comes after Linklaters' partners Graham White and Raymond McKeeve left to join the London office of Kirkland & Ellis. So far in 2007, Linklaters has made a string of senior hires, including David Ereira in banking from Fresh-fields Bruckhaus Deringer in London, Davide Mencacci in leveraged finance and real estate finance from Allen & Overy in Milan; and Sir Christopher Bellamy as full time senior consultant in competition/antitrust law from the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal.

Dewey Ballantine names Smith chair of private equity group
Joseph Smith takes over from Sanford Morhouse as chairperson of Dewey Ballantine's private equity group. Morhouse, who founded the firm's private equity practice, has served as chairperson of the real estate and private equity groups for more than 22 years. Of the succession, Morton Pierce, chair of Dewey's management committee, said in a statement: ?Joe has been a tremendous asset to our private equity group for almost 20 years.? Smith will head more than 40 attorneys in US and Europe who focus on private investment fund formations, acquisitions, finance, reorganizations and exit strategies. Dewey's private equity clients include GE Asset Management, Intel Corporation, Morgan Stanley Investment Management, Olympus Partners, Prosperitas Capital and Royalton Partners. The firm also recently elected Marshall Brozost and Edward Nelson as partners in its real estate and private equity groups.

Mayer Brown hires two from Kaye Scholer
Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw has hired David Lee and Robert Davis III as partners in its Chicago corporate and securities practice from Kaye Scholer. At Kaye Scholer, Lee and Davis had focused on leveraged buyouts and transactions including M&A, divestitures, venture capital and growth equity investments. ?With an impressive history of representing fund sponsors in significant private equity transactions, they will be an excellent complement to our world-class M&A practice and will allow us to continue to expand our presence within the private equity community,? said Fritz Thomas, a firm-wide leader of corporate and securities practice and a member of the policy & planning committee, in a statement. Mayer Brown has been growing its private equity practice. Last September, the firm hired partners Gary Jungels and Olga Loy, private equity fund formation specialists, from Kirkland & Ellis.

Lovells sets up shop in Dubai with three from DWS
London-based Lovells is opening an office in Dubai with three partners from the Dubai office of Denton Wilde Sapte and the secondment of two partners from the London of-fice of Lovells. The three attorneys from DWS are senior banking and finance partner Rahail Ali, senior banking and finance lawyer Rustum Shah and senior corporate and capital markets lawyer Imtiaz Shah. Rahail, who headed DWS' global Islamic finance practice, is an expert in Islamic finance. Rustum specializes in Islamic and structured finance while Imtiaz is a corporate lawyer who has worked on M&A, capital markets, private equity and investment funds. ?We have been able to recruit a team that is recognized by the market as being among the very best in their field,? said David Harris, Lovells managing partner. The firm has been granted a license in Dubai by the Ruler's Office and aims to be fully operational by early May. The office will be headed by Lovells London banking and project finance partner Shibeer Ahmed.