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Morrison & Foerster is opening an office in Shanghai, making it the latest in a growing group of firms looking to the Chinese metropolis as a hot spot for future growth. MoFo, which announced the new office Thursday, joins Clifford Chance, Baker & McKenzie and Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Myers in the city. Home to some 13 million people, Shanghai is the largest city on the Chinese mainland and is one of the country’s key economic and trade centers. “Shanghai is the New York to Beijing’s Washington, D.C.,” said MoFo Chairman Keith Wetmore. “It’s the center of the equity and capital market in China and clearly the financial center.” The office is MoFo’s second on the mainland — it opened a Beijing outpost five years ago — and it has had an office in Hong Kong for 20 years. Although U.S. firms have been in China for many years, until recently they could have an office in no more than one mainland city. The moves by foreign firms into Shanghai came after the Ministry of Justice of the People’s Republic of China began granting licenses for a second mainland office last year. MoFo’s Shanghai office will be staffed with two or three attorneys. The firm also has 10 lawyers in its Beijing office and 16 in Hong Kong. “You can’t compete in China without having offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong,” Wetmore said. O’Melveny, Clifford Chance and Baker & McKenzie are in all three locations. And Shearman & Sterling, which has offices in Beijing and Hong Kong, is considering expanding into Shanghai. “We would like to be there,” said Shearman partner Carmen Chang. “There are two or three Shearman attorneys in Shanghai at any one moment.” Like most of the foreign lawyers in Shanghai, they focus on capital markets work and mergers and acquisitions. MoFo’s Shanghai office will focus on inbound and outbound investment, M&A, private equity, securities offerings, construction and infrastructure, telecommunications and intellectual property. The firm’s clients in China are a mix of inbound U.S. companies, indigenous Chinese and Hong Kong companies and Japanese companies investing in China, Wetmore said. They include United Parcel Service Inc. and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. MoFo also announced that it had hired Rupert Li from Coudert Brothers to head its Hong Kong office, which the firm opened in 1982. Li, a Shanghai native, has extensive experience in China-related securities, M&A, finance, property development and foreign direct investment work in China. MoFo has focused its international growth in the Asian market. While the firm has five outposts in Asia — including Singapore and Tokyo — it has two offices in Europe. Those outposts are in London and Brussels. “California clients seem more often to have Asia needs when they think internationally,” Wetmore said. “We’ve been fortunate to have long-standing, loyal clients in Japan, particularly Fujitsu, that provided backbone for growth.”

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