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When it comes to long commutes, Highway 101 motorists have nothing on Nishith Desai, who lives in Bombay, India, and works in Palo Alto, Calif. Clearly, Desai doesn’t make a 22-hour flight from India every day, but as one of only 33 international law consultants licensed by the California State Bar to practice their nation’s laws in California, he’s in the air more than the average business traveler. Of the consultants licensed in California, Desai is the only one practicing Indian law, according to the Bar. Desai can’t, however, practice U.S. law, and he said he’s careful to avoid any confusion on that point. Desai opened up a three-lawyer Silicon Valley office in November 2000 after he found himself representing more and more Indian clients and U.S.-based entities trying to do business in India. “We are not here for the hype,” Desai said. “We are committed to the technology space, and we have a long-term interest here.” His firm, Nishith Desai Associates, caters to U.S. companies looking to set up subsidiaries in India and investors eyeing the nation for investment opportunities. His firm also lends a hand to U.S. law firms when they need help maneuvering Indian law. And the firm represents Indian companies looking to tap U.S. capital markets or partner with American companies. His 30-person firm, which includes a handful of attorneys and technology researchers, also has offices in Bombay and Bangalore. In the mid-’90s, U.S. companies and law firms made up about 80 percent of the firm’s business, Desai said. The number has dropped since the U.S. economy went into free fall, and now Desai travels to Palo Alto every two or three months instead of twice a month. A lawyer since 1973, Desai said he has always had a taste for things international. While studying law in Bombay, Desai took additional courses in international law. He founded his firm in 1984 with a plan to focus on technology companies on an international scale. His goal was to ensure that the firm’s lawyers and technology experts could jump in to help regardless of a client’s country of origin. “My interest was understanding a lot more about laws other than in India,” Desai said. “It becomes very easy for us to understand different legal systems around the world.”

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