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People who work with Shantanu Surpure aren’t surprised he flew around the world to woo his wife. His energy and focus — and remarkable tolerance for jet leg — also propel his India-centric corporate practice at Pillsbury Winthrop. During a 2000 visit to Singapore, friends had set him up with a Hong Kong-based flight attendant who was born in the same Indian town as he. “It’s tough to persuade a flight attendant to date you,” Surpure said. “Rather than say ‘I’ll come meet you,’ I had to come up with fake meetings in Indonesia, Hong Kong and Thailand to see her.” Such pretexts were plausible for Surpure, whose commute often includes round-the-globe flights for client meetings. Licensed to practice on three continents, Surpure could be seen as the latest status symbol for today’s globalizing megafirms: the truly global lawyer. Although multinational practices are still rare and foreign licenses often carry restrictions, firms are racing to recruit young lawyers with well-traveled resumes who can comfortably cross cultural borders. Morrison & Foerster has been plucking dual-license lawyers from Asia and planting them among their offices there and at home. A spokesman for Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe said the firm is hoping that its underwriting of a Columbia scholarship for Chinese lawyers will help lure one to the firm. Still, holding dual licenses remains a distinction. Squire, Sanders & Dempsey partner Noriyuki Shimoda, for example, estimates that he is one of only five members of both the Japanese Bar and California Bar. Surpure, who is Indian-born and Oklahoma-bred, joined Pillsbury’s Silicon Valley office July 1 after practicing law in Asia for five years. A self-described Anglophile who spent part of his childhood and junior year abroad in England, he paved his path to Indian licensure via the U.K. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Brown, he snagged a solicitor’s degree at Oxford and then dashed to India to take the bar exam. Due to historical ties, degrees from top British law schools are accepted in India while American ones aren’t. Surpure, 34, returned stateside in 1995 to get a U.S. J.D. at Columbia Law School. He sat for his bar exam in New York, and later took the exam in California. “You actually have to plan this way ahead of time,” said Surpure, whose desire to “do deals and bring people together” in addition to his love of reading and writing led him to corporate law. Interest in practicing in his native land arose as he saw its socialist economy reforming in the 1990s. “I could see things were growing. It’s like being in China in the 1980s; it’s just a matter of time.” After finishing school, Surpure jumped from a large firm in London to another in Singapore. In 2001, he was hired as general counsel of a Softbank venture capital fund in Bombay. When the fund fizzled, he moved to Hong Kong to spend time with his new wife. “I came to Hong Kong at the worst time ever. There was SARS, the economy was down, there were protests — and in the Valley, people were getting fired left, right and center,” he said. He studied Chinese for a spell in Shanghai before landing an in-house job at the software company China.com. Based in Hong Kong, Surpure handled the company’s M&A and joint venture deals with India and the U.S. “You have to look a long time to find someone like that,” said Pillsbury partner Benjamin Quinones. “We expect to see more of it and will seek it out.” India is an especially tough market for lawyers to crack. Although its tech industry is generating scads of corporate work, the country does not allow Americans to practice law there — neither Indian nor American law. Opening an outpost there is verboten for Americans. However, as India’s business ties with the United States multiply and its economy continues to open, many hope this will change. Surpure guesses “India is about five years behind China,” which now allows U.S. citizens to practice American law in China. Earlier this year, Surpure decided to return to Silicon Valley. “There is a lot of action in India and Asia today, but law firms in the Valley still understand technology like nobody else,” Surpure said. Conveniently, Jorge del Calvo, co-chair of Pillsbury’s Silicon Valley business group, was adding to his roster of regional specialists for China, South Asia and Israel. Another of del Calvo’s hires, Jay Mandal, ran the Silicon Valley office of Nishith Desai, a top Indian law firm, before joining Pillsbury in April. “Our strategy is very forward-looking because, presuming the India regime opens in order to do cross-border business, it will be of great benefit for current law schools to consider doing dual licenses with India,” said Mandal. As happens in the paradoxically tiny world of cross-border legal work, Mandal and Surpure had met abroad before becoming colleagues at Pillsbury. “We were both U.S. attorneys who met for the first time in a Chinese restaurant in Mumbai,” Mandal recalled. “We both share a vision of more internationalized legal work.” Although both associates do plenty of run-of-the-mill corporate work, Mandal also helps Pillsbury’s U.S. clients expand in India. And Surpure assists India-based clients with growth in the United States. But because neither lawyer can practice Indian law at Pillsbury, the firm relies on counterparts in India for that part. “Having the expertise reside here is important because you have a tremendous time zone difference,” del Calvo said. “Clients like to be able to talk to their lawyer face-to-face without flying.” Surpure, who has nearly a half-dozen cell phone numbers, does the traveling for them. Reached in India on a trip with Surpure, Quinones said his colleague is always on the go, even when sitting in the airport. “There’s always some other fun thing to try even if we only have 10 minutes,” said Quinones, “like running to buy Cuban cigars and a beer.” Surpure’s biggest challenge is staying awake. “You have to work a full day in Silicon Valley and then part of their day too. The fastest flight to India is 24 hours. It’s about as global as you can go.”

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