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�Any firm that wants to be truly international has to have an office in China.’ — Carl Baier Baier Legal Search Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe is expanding its presence in Asia with the addition of a third office, in Beijing. Though some out-of-town firms have opened shops in the Bay Area as stepping stones to the Pacific Rim, few Northern California firms have ventured into Asia. San Francisco-based Heller’s new office helps strengthen its foothold there, particularly as it grows its emerging company-focused Venture Law Group division, acquired in October. “Our growth in China is important to what we do and what we plan to do with the Venture Law Group as we continue to grow that brand on a global basis,” said Chairman Barry Levin. China is key to firms with global aspirations, said Carl Baier, president of Baier Legal Search. “Any firm that wants to be truly international has to have an office in China.” Starting with partners Susan Yu and Carson Wen, both corporate securities specialists previously based in Hong Kong, Heller’s Beijing office will eventually boast eight lawyers. The firm will work with several local firms when the need arises, Levin said. “If we’re working with a non-Chinese company building a facility, for example, there will be a need for a local lawyer.” The office will focus on technology, project finance and public infrastructure deals, such as road and airport construction. With the Chinese government seeking to reduce non-performing debt to help restore the country’s private sector finances, Levin expects the sale of non-performing loans to generate a great deal of project finance work. Heller Ehrman also aims to develop relationships with Chinese government-owned enterprises, which can now raise capital and sell goods — technology, in particular — outside of the country. “We now have people on the ground helping to develop those relationships,” Levin said. Opportunities in China are “enormous,” particularly in the tech sector, said Jennifer Guhl, the director of international trade policy for AeA, a high-tech trade association. “Markets for high-tech goods and services in China are growing by 20 to 40 percent a year.” Heller bulked up its 11-year-old Hong Kong office in June when it hired away a group of 23 attorneys from the local firm of Siao Wen and Leung, bringing the total number of lawyers and trainees in that office to 28.It also has a 10-year-old practice in Singapore, with six lawyers. The firm has a total of 720 lawyers in 13 offices. Of the Bay Area’s firms, San Francisco-based Morrison & Foerster has placed the largest wager in China, with 25 attorneys in offices in Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. The firm also has practices in Tokyo and Singapore. But none of Silicon Valley’s prominent homegrown firms — Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Fenwick & West, Cooley Godward or Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich — have offices in China. Two relative newcomers to Silicon Valley have each invested in Asian operations, racking up an impressive list of tech clients with legal matters in China. Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Myers has offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo, and New York’s Shearman & Sterling has outposts in Beijing and Hong Kong and is in the process of procuring a license to open a Shanghai office.

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