Ropes' rising ambitions

Ropes & Gray is opening an office in Tokyo to focus on intellectual property and private equity.

A US judge's order for a substantial number of documents to be filed within seven days forced five lawyers to fly halfway across the world to Tokyo, then move on to Osaka and three other locations in the MediaTek vs Sanyo Electric Co. intellectual property litigation suit was the impetus for Ropes & Gray to open an office in Tokyo.

The IP litigation and private equity powerhouse only has five offices, all in the US. Now the Boston-based law firm is going to Asia to better service its clients and meet the strong demand for its services from Japanese clients litigating in the US ? as was the above case ? and private equity clients doing transactions in the region.

?Being in the same time zone and being on the ground is a big benefit,? says Howard Glazer, a partner at Ropes & Gray in Boston. ?[The Tokyo office] is a place for us to start to seriously look at the broader Asian market. We have no set plans on further expansion, but it's fair for us to say we're looking both in Japan and other places in Asia.?

The Tokyo office will primarily focus on IP; the firm represents some of the largest Japanese clients in IP litigation. Initially, the office will be staffed by four employees: James DeGraw, a corporate IP partner from Boston and Steven Baughman, an IP litigation partner from Washington DC, as well as two Japanese speaking IP associates, Erika Takeuchi and Kaede Toh from New York. Two other IP partners will support the new office from New York: Patricia Martone and Hiroyuki Hagiwara.

On the private equity side, Glazer says that Ropes & Gray has done a ?substantial amount of work? for Bain Capital in Asia, as well as Silver Lake Partners.

The firm has mainly done transactional work for its private equity clients so far in Asia.

Among the deals the firm has advised Bain Capital on is the acquisition of payment systems provider MEI Conlux from Mars Inc. in April 2006 and its joint acquisition with Japan Industrial Partners of Sun Telephone.

Glazer says that Ropes & Gray is currently advising Bain Capital in Hong Kong on a deal that is ?entirely IP driven.? The transaction is ?north of $1 billion? and spans Hong Kong, Tokyo and Boston.

The Tokyo office will be known as Ropes & Gray Gaikokuho Jimu Bengoshi Jimusho. The firm has received approval from Japan's Ministry of Justice and is awaiting final approval from the Daini Tokyo Bar Association. Although the firm has set the official opening of its Tokyo office for early October, it has yet to find permanent office space.

Cooley opens Boston office
US law firm Cooley Godward Kronish has set up an office in Boston to focus on intellectual property, emerging companies, private equity and venture capital. The new office will be staffed by 10 partners. The corporate practice will consist of John Hession, Lester Fagen, Alfred Browne III, Miguel Vega, Patrick Mitchell and Marc Recht. All six partners focus on private equity and/or venture capital. Hession and Fagen will lead the office. The IP practice will be staffed by Thomas Meyers and Robert Tosti. Cooley's new Boston team all were at one point in their careers with Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault until its dissolution in 2005. ?A Boston office has long been part of Cooley's strategic plan and our knowledge of the marketplace gained over years of substantial activity here enabled us to identify and recruit a group of first-class attorneys. We could not be in a better position to hit the ground running,? said Stephen Neal, chairman and CEO of Cooley, in a statement.

Proskauer hires two and opens in São Paulo
Boston-based law firm Proskauer Rose has added two partners to its corporate practice. Trevor Chaplick joins as co-head of the Washington, DC office. He was previously founder and former managing partner of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati's Washington, DC office. Chaplick represents technology and growth companies, underwriters, private equity firms and venture capital funds in corporate and transactional matters. Stuart Bressman joins the firm in New York. He specializes in capital markets transactions and has reportedly completed over 100 venture capital and other private equity transactions and has represented placement agents in over 100 private placements of securities for public and private companies. The firm has also opened an office in São Paulo, its first in Latin America and ninth overall. The new office will be headed by corporate partner Antonio Piccirillo and Latin American practice head Carlos Martinez. The office will focus on servicing Proskauer's international clients in Latin America and will concentrate on debt and equity offerings, M&A and finance.

Latham & Watkins adds Bruckner in Munich
Los Angeles-based law firm Latham & Watkins has hired Volkmar Bruckner as a partner in its corporate department in Munich, Germany. Bruckner joins from Dechert, where he has been a partner since 2006. He focuses his practice on private equity and M&A, where he represents German and international investors and companies in complex cross-border buyouts and other transactions. ?Volkmar's work on a number of large and mid-market deals has elevated him as a ?rising star? at the German M&A and private equity bar?Volkmar joins a strong and ambitious team in Germany, and his experience and attitude will further reinforce our position in Europe,?said Jörg Kirchner, office managing partner of Latham & Watkins in Munich, in a statement.

Morgan Lewis appoints two in London
New York-based law firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius has hired Saloni Joshi and Kate Haberson as partners in London. Joshi joins the private investment funds practice, while Haberson joins the tax practice. Joshi, who specializes in private equity, hedge funds and real estate investment fund formation and corporate M&A transactions, joins from Debevoise & Plimpton. She has recently advised Gartmore Investment Management's launch of its European fund of funds and The Carlyle Group's launch of its European buyout fund. Haberson joins from Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. She specializes in the tax aspects of M&A, capital markets, acquisition and structured finance, private equity, hedge funds and executive compensation. Haberson recently advised Hellman & Friedman on the acquisition of Gartmore Group, a leading financial institution on the management of UK hedge funds and a major US corporation on its acquisition of private and publicly listed UK businesses.

Debevoise & Plimpton nabs McWhirter in London
New York-based law firm Debevoise & Plimpton has hired Anthony McWhirter as partner in its London office in a rare lateral appointment. McWhirter joins the investment management practice from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, where the founded that firm's investment funds practice. He advises investment managers and other financial institutions on a broad range of multi-jurisdictional private equity and other investment funds, including tax-driven fund structures and listed funds. Marwan Al-Turki, co-chair of the firm's European private equity funds group, said in a statement: ?Anthony is recognized for his expertise in the area of investment funds. His understanding of the wide and complex range of legal issues in this area, underscored by a strong background in fundrelated taxation issues, will add further strength and depth to our European funds practice. We are absolutely delighted to have Anthony join the firm and our team.?

Fried Frank elects two in PE
New York-based law firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson has promoted two lawyers to partner in its corporate practice, while seven others were promoted to partner in the firm. François Hellot in Paris focuses on M&A for public and private companies based in France and elsewhere, and on private equity and venture capital transactions. Tiffany Pollard in New York focuses on private equity transactions and M&A for private equity firms and public and private corporations. Among those promoted are Brian Pfeiffer in New York who advises on bankruptcy and/or restructuring-related matters, Barbara Levy in Paris who specializes in corporate and commercial litigation including intellectual property, Damian Ridealgh in London who represents financial institutions as borrowers and issuers in leveraged finance transactions, Joshua Wechsler in Hong Kong and New York who counsels on corporate finance and US securities laws, and Eli Weiss in New York who specializes in tax issues for acquisitions and divestitures, financings and workout and reorganization plans.

Sidley Austin promotes two in PE
Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin has promoted two associates in its M&A and private equity practice to partner. The promotions are part of a firmwide election which saw 36 promotions to partner. Robert Verigan in Chicago has represented CNL Hotels & Resorts' sale to funds managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate and to Ashford Hospitality Trust, West Corp in its leveraged recapitalization with an investor group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners and Quadrangle Group, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts in the sale of its REIT to Host Hotels, amongst others. Verigas has extensive experience in the insurance industry. Kelly Kriebs in Los Angeles practices in a broad range of corporate matters. She has also represented corporate borrowers and lenders in various secured lending and other credit transactions.