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San Francisco-Earlier this year, New York-based recruiter Henry Lipschutz persuaded Kurt Berney, a prized partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, to join O’Melveny & Myers’ China practice. Landing a skilled mergers and acquisitions partner who was willing to relocate to China, such as Berney, was a coup. And it came from a cold call. The world’s largest law firms are intensely interested in China and the other fast-growing economies of Asia. But firms eager to open or expand offices there are finding that the supply of lawyers is outstripped by demand. That’s creating opportunities for U.S.-based recruiters like Lipschutz, who says Asia now accounts for about 60% of his placements. For now, it’s a small market-there just aren’t that many partners in Asia willing to move around. But it’s expected to grow. “There is tremendous opportunity for search work on the horizon [in China],” said Newport Beach, Calif.-based consultant Peter Zeughauser, who advises many firms on their China strategies. “It’s starting now and it will be a long run-maybe 15 to 25 years.” Partners needed Firms with established China practices, like O’Melveny, can recruit people like Berney, who are willing to take a specialty and move it overseas. Firms trying to launch a China practice, however, need partners who have been on the ground in Asia. “There are a lot of legal recruiters actively recruiting in China-there is no shortage of people trying to do that,” said partner Howard Chao, who heads O’Melveny’s Asia practice. “Where things are tight are senior people with lots of China experience.” Lipschutz, who points to the shortage of partners in explaining why he’s focused on recruiting second- to fifth-year corporate securities associates, agrees. “All the partner-level lawyers that should be in Asia have been there for the last three years,” he said. Thomas Shoesmith is one of them. After starting his career with Cooley Godward of Palo Alto, Calif., he joined the Shanghai, China, office of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker. Earlier this year, recruiter Avis Caravello brought the IP litigator to Thelen Reid & Priest, where he’s launching the firm’s China practice. “Tom would call me at 8 at night”-morning in China-”and the kids would answer the phone, ‘It’s Tom Shoesmith,’ ” Caravello said.

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