Just a few months ago, Houston-based Vinson & Elkins had no international trade practice to speak of, but last week the firm was at the table — literally — testifying before a congressional subcommittee on one of the hot-button China trade issues of the day.

The Texas firm had sought a trade group to service its burgeoning Asia practice for a while. Vinson & Elkins, which had opened posts in Beijing in 1997, Shanghai in 2005, and Hong Kong in 2006, found its clients had an increasing amount of trade-related matters, which it had no choice but to send away to other firms.