Duane Morris Looks for U.K. Takeover Target or Merger Partner, Soroko Says

Duane Morris LLP, the Philadelphia- based law firm with 700 lawyers in 24 offices, wants to buy or merge with a firm in the U.K., Chairman John Soroko said.

“We’re actively considering and identifying the people we should have discussions with,” Soroko said in an interview in Singapore today. “We’ve a real desire to grow in London as this will help leverage us into other international markets.” Duane Morris has 9 lawyers in its London office in the U.K., which has a $37 billion legal market.

The firm may also open offices in Latin America, including Brazil and Mexico, and in Southeast and South Asia this year, said Eduardo Ramos-Gomez, a Singapore-based partner and former Mexican ambassador to the city-state. Those markets are “major hubs of growth,” he said. Duane Morris expects to boost the number of lawyers in Asia to about 40 from 30 by the end of the year, Gomez said.

Law firms are expanding again as corporate finance work recovers after the credit crisis. Duane Morris formed a joint venture with Singapore law firm Arfat Selvam Alliance LLC this year, targeting the increase in initial public offerings and wealth management, said Krishna Ramachandra, managing director of the alliance.

Investors have bought $54 billion of debt and equity on Singapore’s capital market last year, the most since Bloomberg started compiling the data in 1999.

While some of the previous tie-ups in Singapore by foreign firms have ended, including Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP’s alliance with Drew & Napier LLC and Clifford Chance LLP with Wong Partnership, Duane Morris is optimistic that its venture won’t face the same fate, Soroko said.

“Some of the previous ventures were simply glorified marketing arrangements,” said Ramachandra, adding that Duane Morris Arfat Selvam has full economic integration.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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