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Herbert Smith Freehills renews commitment to Singapore with local firm alliance

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has established a formal alliance with Singapore firm Prolegis, almost two years after it chose not to renew its licence to practise locally.

HSF, which decided not to renew its Singapore Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) in February 2014, has had a ‘best friends’ relationship with three-partner firm Prolegis since February this year.

Singapore’s attorney general V K Rajah has approved the formal law alliance (FLA), which means HSF retains its independence, while the firms can integrate marketing, billing, client service and legal services. However, HSF must still direct its Singapore law work to Prolegis, which has relocated its staff to an office next to HSF in Singapore’s Raffles Place.

HSF south-east Asia managing partner Alastair Henderson told Legal Business the firm prefers the FLA structure as it provides more flexibility.

He said: ‘For our clients, Singapore law is an increasingly important part of their business in south-east Asia. The Singapore government is promoting it as the governing law for transactions, so we want to give our clients the best possible one-stop shop for Singapore law.

Prolegis founder Ban Leong Oo added: ‘We don’t have the regional reach that HSF has, and we don’t have the relationships that a global elite firm like HSF has. So really it’s a combination of that network which will help us.’

HSF gave up its QFLP claiming it did not want to commit to specific growth plans as required by the licence, while four of the other six firms originally awarded QFLPs, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins and Norton Rose Fulbright, were given five year renewals in 2014.

The other firm to be awarded a QFLP, White & Case, has also had its licence renewed, for four years, in April this year.