Clifford Chance LLP, the world's biggest law firm by revenue, said it wants to double the number of lawyers for its offices on the Chinese mainland to 90 by 2010 to boost business.
"You've got to be ambitious and bold," said Jim Baird, Asia managing partner for the London-based firm. "The Chinese mainland economy will stay strong, more and more sophisticated products will be required, and there will be increasing appetite to invest in the mainland," he said in an interview with Bloomberg News.
Rivals including Los Angeles-based Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP and London-based Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer are expanding in the mainland to advise companies on takeovers and securities sales, which have surged in the country. Mergers and acquisitions involving mainland companies have risen four-fifths to US$67.7 billion in the first seven months of this year from a year ago, according to Bloomberg data.
Baird, a partner at Clifford Chance since 1989, forecast at least 10 percent revenue growth from mainland-related work this fiscal year starting May 1. China's mainland contributed two-thirds of its Asian income last year, according to Baird.
Revenue at the firm rose 13 percent to 1.03 billion pounds (US$1.9 billion) for the financial year ended on April 30. Asia accounted for 7 percent of that, Baird said.
Clifford Chance was the fourth-ranked legal adviser on mainland mergers and acquisitions in the first seven months of this year, according to Bloomberg data. Its nine announced deals worth US$6 billion compare with 20 valued at US$6.4 billion for the whole of 2005, when it ranked 10th.
"The biggest problem is finding the right quality people," Baird said. "It is not a lack of willingness to expand."
Clifford Chance plans to increase the number of trainees as part of its expansion plan, Baird said. The firm takes six to eight trainees each year. It may also move lawyers from other offices to the mainland, he said.
It would also like to set up ventures with Chinese mainland law firms as soon as the government allows.