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Latham & Watkins officially celebrated its expansion into mainland China on Monday with the opening of an office in Shanghai. Rowland Cheng, who once worked in Latham’s San Francisco office, will be the new office’s managing partner. Most recently, Cheng worked in the firm’s Singapore and Hong Kong offices. Partner James Redway, who will split his time between Singapore and Shanghai, will work with Cheng along with associates Guanghao Lu and Jeffrey Sun. “We are doing a lot of work now with clients [based] in China or who are investing in China,” said Scott Haber, a San Francisco partner on the firm’s executive committee. “This was a natural extension of that work.” Haber said that Latham, which has about 40 lawyers in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo, selected Shanghai because it is a major global financial center. Latham is the latest in a string of U.S. firms to plant a flag in mainland China. Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe opened an office in Beijing in November. Heller plans on opening in Shanghai within a year, pending government approval, said Brett Dick, chairman of Heller’s Asia practice coordinating committee. Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker opened a Shanghai office in 2003 and has about 15 attorneys there. The firm already had locations in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Beijing. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati continues to explore the possibility of opening an office in China, said a spokeswoman for the firm. “It is really the right place to be for Latham,” said Shearman & Sterling’s Carmen Chang, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based partner who took her Chinese clients with her when she left Wilson Sonsini in 2003. “Shanghai is really the center of the non-state-enterprise-owned companies.” Chang, whose firm has offices in Beijing and Hong Kong, says Shearman also has plans to enter Shanghai before the end of the year. Currently, Shearman lawyers work out of client SMIC’s Shanghai offices. O’Melveny & Myers’ Howard Chao, whose firm opened its Shanghai office in 1994 and has 35 professionals there, says that five to 10 years ago firms focused on Beijing. Now they are looking more to Shanghai, partly because the Chinese government has changed its rules and is allowing foreign firms to have more than one office in mainland China. He said that Beijing, where his firm also has offices, is the seat of the central government, but that Shanghai has by far more major companies and investment capital.

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