Next stop, Hong Kong

Weil Gotshal followed its private equity clients all the way to Asia, first in Shanghai, and now Hong Kong.

Weil, Gotshal & Manges announced the opening of its office in Hong Kong in December, continuing its expansion into Asia to better serve its private equity clients in the midst of their own entry into the region. Akiko Mikumo is managing partner for Asia and head of the Hong Kong office.

Mikumo will be joined by David Meredith, a corporate partner from Shanghai who specializes in securities financings, and Peter Feist, a corporate partner from New York who focuses on private equity and mergers & acquisitions. The firm first established offices in Asia, three and half years ago, in Shanghai.

?When we were looking to first expand into the greater China region, we discovered a terrific talent in Steve Xiang who was based in Shanghai, so we decided to start there,? says Mikumo.

Xiang would go on to build a team of around 25 attorneys in Shanghai, and pave the way for the Hong Kong office. ?We always knew that Hong Kong was important ? and as more of our clients saw the growth opportunities for their businesses in Asia, the firm focused its attention on expanding in Asia and adding a Hong Kong office,? says Mikumo.

As much as the mantra for many firms entering Asia for the first time has been to staff locally, the firm eschewed that approach. ?We had internally bred attorneys that were conversant with our current clients that we wanted to deploy,? says Mikumo. She explains that while they explored the option of hiring locally, expert private equity lawyers with the right combination of skills were hard to source. ?So we relied on the best and the brightest attorneys in New York and elsewhere that were also internationally minded.?

While they may have founded the Hong Kong office with Western talent, they collaborate closely with local lawyers. ?The influx of private equity firms, along with the increase in corporate activity, has really created significant legal demands in many local markets. So we're looking to work alongside the local firms, and together provide seamless counsel to our clients,? says Feist.

The new Hong Kong office will also have a broader mandate. ?The Hong Kong office will focus beyond just greater China to all of Asia, including places such as Southeast Asia, Japan and India,? he explains. With plans already underway for a Beijing office in 2008, the firm is pursuing the same bullish approach to the continent as the deal makers it represents.

Norton Rose opens office in Riyadh
Norton Rose has formed an association with Abdulaziz Al-Assaf, a law firm in Saudi Arabia, to bolster its Middle East presence. The new office will operate alongside Norton Rose's offices in Bahrain and Dubai, which have been operating since 1979 and 2003, respectively. Norton Rose Group and Abdulaziz Al-Assaf have previously worked together advising clients in the region. Norton Rose has already advised various companies in Saudi Arabia including banks HSBC/Saudi British Bank, BNP Paribas and domestic oil company Aramco, all within the last 12 months. Kaamil Ansar, a project finance and corporate finance specialist, will be Norton Rose's first member of the office. He recently joined Norton Rose from Middle East law firm Ansar Abbasi where he was a partner. ?The opportunities in Saudi Arabia therefore fit squarely within our strategy and this association with Abdulaziz Al-Assaf and the establishment of a presence in Saudi Arabia is a very exciting development for us,? said Peter Martyr, chief executive of Norton Rose, in a statement.

White & Case expands in Middle East
White & Case is tripling the number of lawyers in the Middle East by adding four lawyers to its office in Riyadh and by establishing an office in Abu Dhabi. The Law Office of Mohammed Al-Sheikh in association with White & Case will have eight lawyers in Riyadh by the end of 2007. The Abu Dhabi office, the firm's 36th worldwide, will be led by partner Villiers Terblanche. Six partners with Middle Eastern, North African and Islamic financing experience will focus on energy, infrastructure, project, asset and Islamic finance, M&A, private equity and investment funds in Abu Dhabi. ?A strong team on the ground is critical to our ability to serve the needs of our clients effectively,? said Hugh Verrier, chairman of White & Case, in a statement. ?We will continue to build on our thriving practice in the Middle East, and this move is a demonstration of our commitment to the region.?

Bryan Cave links up with Chinese firm
Bryan Cave has announced an affiliation with Alpha & Leader, a Chinese law firm in the corporate and finance sectors with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. Under the terms of the affiliation, Bryan Cave and its trade consulting subsidiary will be the preferred firm to support Alpha & Leader on work in the US and other countries outside of China. Alpha & Leader, in turn, will become Bryan Cave's preferred firm for local law services in China that foreign firms are not permitted to offer under Chinese rules. ?A broader footprint in China is increasingly important in today's business environment,? said Don Lents, chairman of Bryan Cave, in a statement. ?Alpha & Leader is well positioned to provide a local law complement to our international practice in China and around the world.?

O'Melveny promotes five in PE
O'Melveny & Myers has announced the election of 23 new partners, effective February 1, 2008. Five new partners practice private equity. Steven Epstein in New York represents public and private companies, investment banking firms and financial sponsors in connection with M&A and corporate governance matters. Victoria Deitcher Nassi in San Francisco represents private equity funds and their portfolio companies, and financial advisors in negotiated and hostile M&A and LBOs. Justin Stock in London specializes in M&A, corporate finance and private equity. In Century City, Eric Zabinski's corporate practice includes M&A, private equity financings and buyouts and public securities offerings. Loretta Shaw-Lorello in New York focuses on advising sponsors of private equity funds, both domestic and international, in matters related to fund formation and operations.

Weil Gotshal elects three in PE
Weil Gotshal & Manges has announced the promotion of 20 new partners, effective January 1, 2008. Three new partners practice private equity. Arthur de Baudry D'Asson in Paris focuses on public and private M&A. He has advised Axa Private Equity on the disposal of its interest in French listed company Camaïeu and Weinberg Capital Partners on the acquisition of French listed company Sasa Industrie. Michael Weisser in New York represents private equity sponsors in connection with acquisitions, dispositions and financings. He has represented Providence Equity Partners, Lindsay Goldberg & Bessemer, DLJ Merchant Banking Partners, Diamond Castle and Capital Z Partners, amongst others. Rafal Zwierz practices private equity in Warsaw.

Wilson Sonsini promotes four in PE/VC
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has announced the promotion of 13 new partners, effective February 1, 2008. John Randall Lewis in San Francisco practices corporate and securities law, including public offerings, corporate governance, mergers and acquisitions, and venture capital and private equity financings. He focuses on representing technology and other growth companies, with particular concentration in clean technology and renewable energy. Jon Layman in Palo Alto represents public and private companies on general corporate and securities matters, including M&A, public offerings, venture capital, public company issues and emerging company issues. Richard Kline, also in Palo Alto, represents public and private companies and spans the full range of corporate transactions, including public offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and venture financings. Derek Willis in Austin represents emerging growth companies, venture capital funds and investment banks. His practice focuses on venture capital financings for growth companies, M&A and public securities offerings.

Gibson Dunn elects Thomas to partner
Gibson Dunn has announced the promotion of 14 new partners, effective January 1, 2008. Of the 14, C. William Thomas, Jr in the corporate department practices private equity. His practice emphasizes the formation and operation of domestic and international private investment funds, including hedge funds, private equity funds, real estate funds and funds of funds. Thomas is a resident in the Washington, DC office. Gibson Dunn also promoted Dora Arash in Los Angeles. Arash practice concentrates on federal income tax planning for corporations and partnerships. She has advised clients on the tax consequences of partnership and corporate formations, taxable stock and asset acquisitions, tax-free reorganizations, public and private offerings of stock and debt, spin-offs, bankruptcy reorganizations, partnership and limited liability company transactions, and executive compensation.

Paul Hastings promotes Rao to partner
Paul Hastings has promoted 16 new partners, effective February 1, 2008. Thomas Rao in New York focuses on representing sponsors of private investment funds, primarily real estate funds, as well as private equity funds, hedge funds and funds of funds. He has experience in fund structuring and capital raising and deployment, and regularly addresses issues arising under ERISA, tax, real estate and securities laws. Rao's practice includes the organization and representation of private REITs, as well as domestic and offshore partnerships and other investment vehicles.