Winston & Strawn eyes Taiwan, Singapore offices in Asia push

US law firm Winston & Strawn is eyeing new offices in Taiwan and Singapore as part of a wider Asia growth plan that will see it double in size in the region.

The Chicago-headquartered outfit, which currently has three Asian bases located in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing which it inherited from now defunct Heller Ehrman five years ago, plans to grow its teams in IP, corporate, anti-trust, energy and disputes.

“It’s been a tough five years for law firms but we’ve managed to hold our profitability,” said the firm’s regional managing partner, David Hall-Jones.

“The direction in Asia is definitely right. We’re sticking to our strengths. We’ve more than doubled in size and tripled in revenues in the first five years.

“I could see us doubling in terms of both size and revenues in the next two years. We are looking to be in four jurisdictions in a five year timeline.”

Under the plans, the firm will open an office in Taiwan in the first quarter of this year, with a focus on litigations filed in the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

The firm’s existing capabilities in this area includes four partners and specialist ITC litigators – John Alison, Steve Anzalone, Paul Goulet and Tom Jarvis – who were hired in Washington DC along with six lawyers in July last year from IP firm Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner (Finnegan).

Alison is to head up the base, splitting his time between Taiwan and Washington, while the other partners will continue to commute from the US once a month.

“We anticipate opening in Taipei in March,” said Hall-Jones. “Taiwan is the biggest market for our ITC practice – so our opening there is needs driven, one or more of the partners are there every month.

“We will have an office of three of four attorneys initially. Over time I think it will grow, as the same clients that need IP and ITC remedies have anti-trust and international arbitration needs as well.”

Also on the cards is an office in Singapore to tap international arbitration, infrastructure and energy work.

Hall-Jones said the firm was looking to hire a team of partners instead of making individual appointments over time.

“I’m certainly interested in Singapore – we are keen to [launch] a regional infrastructure, energy and international arbitration practice – that would be opportunist if we had the right quality of practice,” he said.

“Individual hires can work but our success as a firm has been team hires. If it was a five or six partner practice in Singapore, that would be fine. People who are successful together want to stay together. That would also give us an M&A capability as well.”

Winston & Strawn has grown significantly in Asia in the last five years, with a number of additions in China, Hong Kong and the US.

Its most recent appointments include Clyde & Co labour and employment partner Matt Durham who joined the firm’s Shanghai office in May last year, Baker & McKenzie US and Asia anti-trust partner Steve Harris who came on board in Washington in October, and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe energy partner Marco Pocci who joined the firm in Hong Kong in December.

It now has a four-partner team in Hong Kong covering corporate, M&A, litigation and energy deals, and another four partner team in Shanghai doing inbound and outbound investment and employment work.

In Beijing the firm currently has no partners, but Hall-Jones said the plan is to add four lawyers in IP, disputes, energy and anti-trust over the next two years.

“Beijing is the harder one for us – there are relatively few firms that have large practices.

“We have looked at what can we do well and successfully, and for us that’s going to be IP – so cross border patent litigation between China and the US, anti-trust, international arbitration and energy.

“We’re aiming for four partners over a two year timeline for us to be as successful here as we have been in Shanghai.”

Related: Winston & Strawn to launch fourth Western Europe base in Brussels