Morgan Lewis sets up in China

The firm bulks up with China experts from tech and VC-strong law firm Wilson Sonsini.

China has perhaps the most growth potential for private equity and venture capital out of all the regions in the world. At the same time, its sheer size and intricacy – particularly on the legal and regulatory fronts – make it also one of the most challenging markets for both international and local GPs to conduct business.

Enter Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. This firm is on a recruiting tear – not only has the international law firm managed to lure four of rival firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's top private equity practice partners into its US fold, but Morgan Lewis has set its sights on moving to the out-sized – and potentially highly lucrative – Chinese market.

The firm's first leap into this market was the establishment of a new Beijing office in February. Leading these efforts will be Lucas Shen-Lun Chang and Xuting (Peter) Zhang, both formerly at Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

Chang, formerly a partner at Wilson Sonsoni Goodrich & Rosati's China practice, has joined Morgan Lewis as a senior partner in the firm's Greater China practice. Although he is based at the firm's Palo Alto office, Chang spends considerable time in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Zhang, formerly of counsel at Wilson Sonsini, is based at Morgan Lewis' office in Beijing, along with intellectual property partner K. Karen Loewenstein, Morgan Lewis' chief representative in China.

Chang anticipates that Morgan Lewis will play a significant role in helping its local client companies with their corporate structures and venture capital or private equity financing, working with tax consultants and accounting firms, setting up the right capital and share structure, as well as issues such as intellectual property and technology licensing.

?Our view is that a lot of Chinese companies, especially those venture capital- and private equity-backed companies, will in the foreseeable future always seek exits in stock exchanges outside of China,? says Chang. ?We feel that a firm like ours will add a lot of value to these companies when they go through the stages of taking a company public. That is one of the primary focuses of Morgan Lewis in China.?

In setting up its China operations, Morgan Lewis is likely to encounter many of the same issues as its private equity clientele. At the same time, despite the challenges, China is ?immensely interesting and opportunities are plenty,? says Chang.

Levy leaves Norton for Shearman
Shearman & Sterling has named Laurence Levy as a partner in its London office. Levy joins the firm from Norton Rose, where he specialized in public and private company mergers as well as equity offerings and corporate restructurings. He joined Norton Rose in 1986, qualified in 1988 and became a partner in 1996. From 1991 to 1994 he was based in Hong Kong. Levy joins the firm's English law M&A partners Jonathan Coppin and Peter King and US law partners Bonnie Greaves and George Karafotias, counsel John Ellard, counsel Angus Rollo and 20 associates. Shearman recently advised Sun-Gard Data Systems in its $11.4 billion acquisition by a consortium of private equity firms.

Clifford adds to Polish real estate
International law firm Clifford Chance has added four professionals to its real estate practice in Warsaw. The four, led by Pawel Debowski, join the firm from the Warsaw office of CMS Cameron McKenna. Debowski began his career at Arthur Andersen and spent five years at Nabarro Nathanson before moving to CMS in 1996. He will manage real estate legal work for Clifford Chance across Central and Eastern Europe. The other partners to join the firm are Michal Siwek, Piotr Szafarz and Maciej Ryniewicz. Clifford Chance has 28 offices in 19 countries throughout the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Latham adds healthcare pro in Menlo Park
Latham & Watkins has hired Judith Hasko as a partner in the firm's Silicon Valley office. Hasko focuses on biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical device and technology transactions. She joins the firm from the Palo Alto office of Cooley Godward, where she has been a partner in the life science practice since 2001. Hasko received her JD degree in 1994 from the University of Wisconsin Law School. Latham & Watkins is a global law firm with more than 1,800 attorneys in 22 offices.

Ropes & Gray hires Wilson Sonsini vet
Eric Wright has joined US law firm Ropes & Gray's Palo Alto office as partner. Wright's expertise focuses on private equity and venture capital fund formation. In a press statement, Ropes & Gray's private equity practice co-chair Larry Jordan Rowe said, ?Eric adds real strength to our private equity fund organization and investment team on the West Coast.? Wright was previously at Silicon Valley law firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati for 12 years, where he became partner in 1998. Prior to joining Wilson Sonsini, Wright was based in Palo Alto at Ware & Friedrich, after spending four years at Cravath Swain & Moore's New York and London offices. Ropes & Gray is headquartered in Boston, and the firm's investment funds practice boasts over 75 attorneys. The firm's Palo Alto and San Francisco offices house over 40 lawyers.

ATV scores in-house general counsel
Deirdre Cunnane, most recently an investment officer at Banc-Boston Ventures, has joined bicoastal venture capital firm Advanced Technology Ventures as general counsel. While at BancBoston Ventures, Cunnane managed venture and buyout investments targeting the healthcare, high-tech, and retail industries. She also served as BancBoston Capital's deputy general counsel for six years. Cunnane went in-house after representing VC and private equity investors at Goodwin Procter law firm for nine years, where she became partner. ATV, with offices in Silicon Valley and Waltham, Massachusetts invests in information technology and healthcare companies and has $1.4 billion under management. Cunnane will be based at ATV's Waltham office.

Fulbright expands corporate practice
Former Locke Liddell & Sapp law firm partner Gene Lewis has joined Fulbright & Jaworski' s Houston office as partner in the firm's corporate practice. Lewis, whose corporate and securities law experience centers on M&A transactions and securities offerings, also has significant experience in structuring partnerships and other types of joint investment vehicles, including private equity. US-headquartered fullservice law firm Fulbright has 950 attorneys spread across its 13 offices around the world.

Arnold & Porter elects corporate counsel
Arnold & Porter, an international law firm headquartered in Washington DC, has promoted Rashmi Seth from associate to counsel, amid a slew of associate promotions. Seth, who joined the firm in 1997 and will continue to be based at the firm's New York office, focuses on corporate and securities law. She has represented domestic and international clients in securities offerings, M&A transactions, joint ventures, private equity financings and corporate restructurings. Seth also counsels clients on SEC reporting requirements and corporate governance, among other securities compliance topics. Arnold & Porter has over 650 lawyers at the firm's eight offices in the US and Europe.

Proskauer hires high-yield debt pro
Corporate finance attorney Ian Blumenstein has joined the ranks of international law firm Proskauer Rose as partner. Specializing in high-yield debt, Blumenstein's experience includes corporate finance transactions for corporate and investment banking clients, including Bear Stearns, Jefferies, Credit Suisse, UBS, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. Prior to joining Proskauer, Blumenstein had been a partner at Latham & Watkins law firm, which he joined in 1989 as an associate. From 1998 to 1999, he was a managing director at full-service investment bank BancBoston Robertson Stephens. Blumenstein will be based at the firm's New York and Boston offices. Proskauer has a total of eight offices in the US and Europe that house over 700 lawyers.

Simmons launches Amsterdam base
Simmons & Simmons, the London-based international law firm, has announced a new office in Amsterdam in order to bolster its provision of legal services to financial institutions in the Netherlands. The office will be launched later this year and will host the Dutch Financial Markets Group (DFMG), comprising 18 lawyers, notaries and tax advisers, with a stated intention to grow to 40 staff within a few years. Managing partner Gerhard Gispen will become head of the group on May 1, 2006. He says: “Many of our existing clients in the financial market are headquartered in Amsterdam. Opening an office in Amsterdam will give us an excellent opportunity to meet the growing demand for high quality and international service even better and faster.” Among the recent transactions worked on by the DFMG team was the takeover of Dutch publisher PCM Uitgevers by global private equity firm Apax Partners for an undisclosed sum. The office will be Simmons & Simmons' second in the Netherlands, following its earlier establishment of a Rotterdam base.

Quartet changes sides in the UK
Four private equity lawyers have quit the Manchester, England office of Pinsent Masons to join a rival team at Cobbetts. The team comprises Pinsent Masons founding partner Paul Johnson as well as associates Vicky Ziykoyich, Nicola Frost and Paul Kelly. The group of four will rejoin former colleague Sean Fitzgerald in their new home. Fitzgerald, left Pinsent Masons' Manchester office, where he was head of corporate and one of the founding partners, in January of this year. Cobbettsnow has 55 corporate lawyers and 22 partners working across its three English offices in Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham.