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Relying on friends: HSF gives up local law licence as it teams up with Singapore outfit

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has entered into a best friend agreement with Singapore law firm Prolegis after giving up its Qualifying Foreign Law Practice in the city-state.

The decision means HSF can no longer practice Singapore law with its 11-partner office, led by arbitration specialist Alastair Henderson, which is now streamlining its operation to focus on UK, Australian and US law used in finance, M&A and international arbitration. The firm, which was awarded its local licence in 2008, will now send local law advice to three-lawyer Prolegis.

Prolegis, which was established in 2012, is run by a single partner Ban Leong Oo, a former HSF lawyer in London who served a seven-year stint as partner at Drew & Napier and was more recently a consultant at Allen & Overy.

Even with this model in place, the move reduces HSF’s Singapore law capability, having formerly had five lawyers able to practice local law compared to the three lawyers at Prolegis. One of Prolegis’ three lawyers was recently hired from HSF, corporate of counsel Kwok-Hon Lee, who is known for his work with insurer Prudential. HSF’s existing office will now revert to being a Foreign Law Practice.

Ban Leong commented: ‘South East Asia is going through unprecedented growth and a significant amount of regional legal work is being run out of Singapore and governed by Singapore law. Prolegis and Herbert Smith Freehills share a strong working relationship; I know the partners well and look forward to working alongside them.’

Henderson, South East Asia managing partner, added: ‘I am delighted that our clients will have access to high quality Singapore law advice from Prolegis. Both firms are strongly committed to this relationship and to an effective and efficient collaboration. We expect to be working very closely with Prolegis given its specialties in corporate and commercial law related to M&A and strategic investments.’