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CHICAGO-Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw is racing to build its global trade practice, doubling the number of attorneys in the group to 30 since late 2004 and pulling many of the new professionals from top government positions. Over the past 18 months, the group has attracted new lawyers from the government, such as James Jochum, and new clients, such as Target Corp., said Peter Scher, who heads the practice for the firm. Jochum served as assistant secretary of commerce for import administration in the Bush administration from 2001 to 2005. Mayer Brown expects to double its revenue from the practice this year, to $13 million, up from $6.5 million two years ago, according to Scher. While it’s no surprise to find firms chasing international business in light of rising international commerce and surging foreign economies like China’s, the rate of Mayer Brown’s expansion sets it apart. Playing catch-up Mayer Brown is partly playing catch-up with some firms, such as Baker & McKenzie, that have long had a strong focus on global commerce and foreign investment. The firm is also making a bigger bet than some rivals on the need for legal services when it comes to cross-border business. “Given the range of trade and regulatory issues our clients are facing, we want to be in a position to assist them,” Scher said from his Washington office. The value of U.S. products and services imports rose by 22% between 2000 and 2004, while exports rose by 7%, according to U.S. Commerce Department statistics. Imports to the United States from China alone have nearly doubled over the same period. Crowded field Scher’s group has expanded its trade litigation work, is counseling more companies on access to foreign economies and is seeking to shape trade policy and regulation. The firm is now better able to keep existing clients from drifting to rivals when they need global trade services, Scher said. In addition to Target, the Chicago-based firm has added Motorola Corp., Apple Computer Inc. and Nike Inc. as clients. While the field is getting more crowded, firms aren’t necessarily battling fiercely over the same business, said John McKenzie, who leads Baker & McKenzie’s international practice group in the firm’s San Francisco office. “You have more competition, but the pie over which they’re competing has increased so much,” said McKenzie, noting that his firm’s practice is still growing. Mayer Brown, which has 1,400 attorneys, including former U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, added Duane Layton, former head of the international trade practice at Miller & Chevalier earlier this year. Miller & Chevalier, a 120-attorney firm based in Washington, is refocusing its international practice on a broad range of trade issues at home, said Hal Shapiro, chairman of the practice. With trade litigation cases declining over the past year, Shapiro questions whether big firms can afford to focus too much on that niche. Scher says his firm won’t. “We wanted to be more significant players in that market, which we have done, but not to the point that we’re overly dependent.”

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