Singapore Is Known As A “Gateway To Asia” For Global Law Firms
For many global law firms seeking to meet client demands in their expanding geographic footprints, entering the Asia legal market can require more than one attempt.
Decisive Moves To Singapore
Law firms have made decisive moves in recent years toward Singapore, where transactional work and arbitration remained active during the pandemic, and venture capital investment has bounced back. Meanwhile, some have exited or stagnated in well-established but saturated legal markets like Hong Kong and China.
Changes In China & Hong Kong
For some, U.S.- China trade tensions and Hong Kong’s political instability were a factor. But many entered the region as China’s state-owned enterprises actively sought overseas acquisitions—an attractive and lucrative stream of work for global firms. The Chinese government also at around the same time launched a massive crackdown on corruption, which brought about another new line of work for law firms in white-collar crime, anti-corruption, and regulatory compliance advice. But that work has dried up in recent years.
Some global law firms have found themselves withdrawing from a geographic footprint if they fail to establish deep enough roots in the regional business community to generate sufficient revenue. Recruiters say institutional clients are typically fast to shop around for other legal counsel when their outside counsel fails to deliver.
McDermott Will & Emery told Law.com International in March that it plans to open an office in Singapore, following the firm’s shuttering of its offices in China and South Korea in 2020 and 2019, respectively. The firm has advised on several key M&A deals in Southeast Asia, particularly in the logistics and supply chain space. McDermott also hired away Squire Patton Boggs’ Singapore co-managing partner, Ignatius Hwang. McDermott said Hwang will play a leading role in developing the firm’s offerings in Singapore and Southeast Asia. read more