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Asia round-up: Morrison Foerster and Quinn Emanuel expand in Asia

Singapore has been in focus over the past week after Morrison Foerster launched an anti-corruption practice and as UK and US firms vie for the next round of local law licences.

Morrison, which opened in Singapore in January, this week relocated litigation partner Daniel Levison from its Tokyo office to spearhead its Southeast Asia anti-corruption practice.A member of the firm’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and anti-corruption task force, Levison focusses on cross-border disputes and compliance matters, including conducting internal investigations across the Asia-Pacific region.

At its January opening, Morrison’s Singapore office was staffed by Asia managing partner Eric Piesner and tax partner Eric Roose, who remain in the office together with Levison, senior of counsel Marshall Horowitz and corporate associate Lip Kian Ang.

Piesner said: ‘Dan’s move underscores our commitment to expanding our coverage to ensure we are where our clients need us as they expand their businesses while navigating an increasingly challenging regulatory environment.’

Morrison is understood to be interested in applying for a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence, which enable firms to practice Singapore law in all areas except domestic litigation and general practice such as criminal and family law.

In February, Linklaters, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day and Sidley Austin were the only four out of 23 law firm applicants awarded QFLP licences, after the Singapore Ministry of Law considered factors including the value of offshore work the firm’s Singapore office will generate; the number of lawyers based in the region; the areas of legal practice that the Singapore office will offer; and the extent to which the Singapore office will act as an Asian headquarters.

Sidley has had an office in Singapore since 1982 and offices across Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney and Tokyo, while Jones Day’s Singapore office opened in 2001.

Firms awarded a QFLP in the first round of licensing in 2009 – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Norton Rose, Latham & Watkins and White & Case – will need to again demonstrate that they meet the commitment and performance criteria in order to receive a renewed QFLP next year.

The deadline for the previous two licencing rounds was 31 August.

According to Ministry figures, the nominal value of Singapore’s legal services sector has grown by more than 25% from S$1.5bn in 2008 to an estimated S$1.9bn in 2012, with the value of legal services exported from Singapore up from S$363m in 2008 to S$551m in 2011.

Elsewhere in Asia, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan last week announced its plans to open an office in Hong Kong with the hire of a partner from Korean firm Kim & Chang.

Kim & Chang senior foreign attorney John Rhie will head expansive Quinn Emanuel’s latest office once it receives the necessary approval. Quinn Emanuel New York partner Carey Ramos is also set to join Rhie in Hong Kong as a senior partner. Ramos, who has media and intellectual property expertise, concentrates on complex business litigation, particularly in cross-border disputes and international arbitration.

Managing partner John Quinn said: ‘We have been planning the opening of another office in Asia for some time, and of course we would like this to be in Hong Kong, when we get the approvals. John was our number one choice.’

The office would be the firm’s 14th, having just opened in Sydney this month.