International law firms are increasingly looking to grow their businesses in Asia to take advantage of opportunities to advise on fund formation and other fund-related issues.

The latest two firms to ramp up activity are Boston-based Bingham McCutchen, which has expanded its investment management group to Hong Kong, and London-based Simmons & Simmons, having last week announced a new office in Beijing.

Heading Bingham's funds practice in Asia and focusing on fund formation is Anne-Marie Godfrey, who joined the firm in Hong Kong on 21 June as a partner from Cayman Islands-based Maples and Calder. She has advised Hong Kong-, Japan- and Singapore-based institutional and boutique investment managers on the establishment of hedge funds, private equity and retail mutual funds.

Godfrey also advises investment advisers, fund administrators, trustees and other fund-service providers on investment fund-related issues, such as administration, custody, prime brokerage, loan and security documents, swaps and derivatives agreements, netting agreements and credit-support documents.

She also advises on European regulatory issues and has obtained Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission authorisation for European Ucits funds for distribution to the retail public in Hong Kong.

"Anne-Marie will add significant value to our US fund clients with ties to Asia," says Roger Joseph, head of Bingham's investment management group and co-leader of the financial services area. Bingham's IM group represents both US and non-US managers, advisers and funds, and plans to expand the team to support Godfrey.

Meanwhile, Simmons & Simmons plans to add a Beijing branch to its Shanghai and Hong Kong offices, and has hired partner Davis Wang to sit in the new office when it opens.

He is joining from King & Wood, a China-based PRC law firm, where he was a partner. Davis is a PRC and US qualified lawyer specialising in foreign direct investment, M&A, private equity fund investment and fund formation, with a focus on the TMT industry sector. He has 15 years' experience representing multinational companies and is fluent in English and Mandarin. 

These moves come as an increasing number of renminbi-denominated funds are being set up -- by private equity group Carlyle and insurer Manulife, among others -- and Asian interest is growing in Ucits-compliant structures, as reflected by the recent unveiling of the first Ucits long/short China fund by Galaxy Asset Management.

Other law firms are staffing up in the funds and private-equity space in the region. John Fadely joined the Hong Kong office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges last month as a partner in the US law firm's global funds practice, a newly created post.

Another US law firm, Ropes & Gray, has taken on former Hogan & Hartson lawyer Arthur Mok in Hong Kong as a partner in the private equity and life sciences practices to service Greater China clients, in a step towards opening a new office in Shanghai.

Moreover, Luxembourg-based fund industry specialist law firm Arendt & Medernach late last year set up a representative office in Hong Kong, its first in Asia.