When Morgan, Lewis & Bockius announced last month that it had landed the right team of lawyers to open an office in Beijing and the permission of Chinese authorities to do it, it was a double coup.

While obtaining a license to practice in China isn’t the mystery it used to be for U.S. firms, it’s still an arduous process. Firms can wait as long as a year to get an answer from local officials and the Chinese Ministry of Justice, as Morgan Lewis did. And that’s after completing the lengthy application that must be notarized, approved by U.S. agencies and then translated into Mandarin.