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August 23, 2011 4:00 PM

Dorsey & Whitney Inks Alliance with Chinese Firm

Posted by Brian Baxter

Dorsey & Whitney has struck an alliance with 20-lawyer Shanghai boutique Martin Hu & Partners (MHP) in a move aimed at bolstering the Minneapolis-based Am Law 100 firm's presence in the city after a pair of departures, sibling publication The Asian Lawyer reports.

Earlier this month, Dorsey lost Michael Chin, a corporate partner in Shanghai and the former chair of the firm's Asia practice, to Hogan Lovells. Chin's departure came a month after former Dorsey regional managing partner Jay Yan left for Reed Smith to help that firm enter the increasingly crowded Shanghai legal market.

The MHP alliance gives Dorsey much-needed bench strength in Shanghai, a market it first entered in 2001. The firm only has six lawyers on the ground in the city, with Shanghai managing partner Peter Corne the sole remaining partner. MHP opened in 2008 after name partner Martin Hu left another Chinese firm, Boss & Young, which he cofounded a decade earlier.

MHP will serve as special counsel to Dorsey on Chinese legal issues. Dorsey, in turn, will provide MHP U.S. and other non-Chinese legal expertise, according to The Asian Lawyer. (Because foreign law firms are not permitted to practice local law in China, it is standard for them to refer local work to domestic firms.) It is unclear whether the alliance is exclusive. Neither MHP nor Dorsey responded to The Asian Lawyer's requests for comment.

According to the most recent Am Law 100 financial data, 570-lawyer Dorsey saw gross revenue fall nearly 6 percent last year to $322.5 million, while profits per partner increased 13 percent to $565,000.

Am Law 200 firms have been busy in Shanghai this year. Quarles & Brady got things started in January by opening a representative office. In May, Blank Rome and Cooley announced office openings in Shanghai, which in recent years has been touted as potentially surpassing Hong Kong as a world financial center.

Last month, Ropes & Gray opened an office in Shanghai, only a few weeks after Reed Smith started its own local operation by poaching Dorsey's Yan. Chinese firm King & Wood is engaged in alliance talks with top Australian firm Mallesons Stephen Jaques, according to our previous reports

Two weeks ago Dorsey's Twin Cities–based rival, Faegre & Benson, confirmed that it is in merger talks with Indianapolis-based Baker & Daniels. A merger would give the combined firm Faegre's Shanghai operations and the Beijing office of Baker & Daniels.

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