Eversheds will move into the SGX centre in November, and while talks with Harry Elias are ongoing, progress has been slow due to Singapore’s tightly regulated legal market.
The merger, which will need approval from Singapore’s Ministry of Law, is unique in that it will allow Eversheds to gain access to Singapore’s legal market without being subject to local licensing requirements that only allow firms to practise Singapore law in ‘permitted areas’ and are subject to renewals.
The only fully integrated firm at present is Morgan Lewis & Bockius, which combined with Stamford Law in March 2015 to enable it to practise across all legal service areas.
Legal Business revealed in March that Eversheds was in talks with Harry Elias in a bid for a Singapore tie-up. The firm has had an office in the city since 2009, which is led by managing director Oommen Mathew. The outpost covers corporate commercial, dispute management, banking and finance and human resources and employment.
Harry Elias, which has about 60 lawyers, is led by managing partner Philip Fong. The full service law firm is well-regarded for its strong dispute resolution practice which includes expertise in international arbitration, and its formidable matrimonial and family law practice.
In March Eversheds Asia managing partner Stephen Kitts described South-East Asia as two distinct markets with different dynamics.
‘With offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, China and India, he sees South-East Asia as a strategically important commercial region.
‘Singapore has become a very successful hub for international arbitration, it’s developed a strong reputation. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre has very much come to prominence in the last ten to 15 years, the government has put a lot of weight behind it and promoted it very hard and it’s become extremely credible.’
Singapore is still a lucrative market for many law firms, with Osborne Clarke recently expanding its south-east Asia presence through an association with a new Singaporean firm, OC Queen Street. In July, Reed Smith entered into a formal alliance with Singaporean firm Resource Law giving the firm the ability to practise Singapore law for the first time.