Freshfields confirms Singapore relaunch with lateral hires on the agenda

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s partnership council has given the go-ahead to plans to reopen in Singapore.

The magic circle law firm is now set to relaunch the office in the third quarter of this year, only five years after shutting its former arm in the region.

Freshfields has not yet applied for a licence in Singapore, but has confirmed that it intends to practise UK and US law initially, rather than pursuing any kind of domestic law venture with a local firm, despite moves to open up the market to foreign advisers.

The firm is currently in talks with a number of lateral hires to staff the office and is also expecting to relocate partners to Singapore from the rest of its network.

One Freshfields partner commented: “The firm is proceeding with its plans to reopen in Singapore, as Southeast Asia is receiving a lot of attention from our clients at the moment, and we need to respond to that.

“Singapore continues to attract inbound investment, so having the capability to do international work out of Singapore is important. It will involve a combination of lateral hires and internal moves and we hope that there will be more clarity on these by early summer.”

The new office will focus on arbitration, corporate, projects and energy work, with the firm also looking to use the base as a strategic access point for India.

Freshfields closed the door on its two-partner Singapore branch in April 2007 as part of a move to refocus its Asia efforts on China and Japan.

News of the relaunch comes after Singapore last month announced plans to open up its legal market by allowing overseas firms to take stakes in local law practices and share profits.

Changes to the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012 announced by the Singapore Ministry of Law will relax rules on foreign ownership of law firms, allowing overseas firms to take a profit and equity share in a Singapore firm of up to 33% in the event of a tie-up.

The changes will make it easier for Allen & Overy to pursue some form of tie-up with Linklaters’ Singapore joint venture partner Allen & Gledhill. The pair entered into discussions about a merger late last year.

By Suzi Ring

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