Chambers Global Singapore International Capabilities

Singapore: International & Cross Border Capabilities

In the International & Cross Border Capabilities sections, Chambers highlights the law firms which are identified by clients as the best and most user-friendly to work with when matters involve international aspects, that require the lawyers to consider, manage and advise on issues which are going on across different countries and jurisdictions.

All the firms listed in the Singapore section offer strong abilities to serve clients who are seeking a legal team with significant resources in Singapore, but also the ability to excel in international work.

Frequently, the firm’s specified have been picked out by clients for their strengths in some or all of the below:

• coordinating advice on connected transactions, court procedures or regulatory issues in different countries as a lead counsel;
• providing global reach and giving clients access to top quality legal advice in all the markets they need help;
• providing seamless and integrated legal services to clients, which create a user-friendly experience across borders; and
• helping clients in international matters through specific knowledge or experience of sector or industry practices worldwide.

Global Trends in the Singapore Market:

Singapore is becoming a bustling hub for opportunities in Southeast Asia, competing with Hong Kong for the title of Asia’s key financial centre. As a gateway to the ASEAN, Singapore attracts a lot of international firms, which are setting up offices or setting alliances to serve international clients on investments into the region. Also, the importance of Singapore-centred independent firms is growing, as they are rightly placed to service clients’ needs in the region.

Firms have adopted varying strategies, within certain patterns. One of the key trends is that of expansion, with firms such as Rajah & Tann growing significantly in the last few years by opening offices across ASEAN jurisdictions. This model is very attractive to both local and international clients coming into the region, as it can help to navigate different legal regimes, offering strong regulatory support across different jurisdictions and acting as a one stop shop.

Other domestic firms have chosen to remain independent, opting out of building a network of offices or formal alliances, but still forging an influential role in international work such as Allen & Gledhill. Known as a top-quality firm in Singapore, the firm is perceived to be well-suited to clients which want the flexibility of choosing its firm out of Singapore but work together with other top firms in each of their different jurisdictions, depending on preferences in any given country. Allen & Gledhill is often quoted for having strong coordinating capability with one point of contact and seamless advice, which has been key to operating in this way successfully.

Another strategy is that of a joint venture between an international and local firm. Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow is perceived as a good example of this model, with good traction in the domestic market and local law capacity, together with a global network to tap into. The international credentials of this type of firm appeals to local and international clients alike, which may face various localised issues in Southeast Asia as part of their multi-jurisdictional matters, inside but also extending beyond the region.

There is a host of international law firms which have entered the Singapore market at different times and followed different strategies. Among the earlier entrants who have successfully penetrated the market are Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance, both of which have developed local law capability and invested into a broad Singapore base. In contrast, many of the US-centred international firms in Singapore have tended to focus on key practice areas and are more exclusively geared towards international work as opposed to local practices. Milbank, Tweed, Handley & McCloy stands out as an example of this, having top-ranked banking, capital markets, projects, restructuring and M&A practices, aiming to serve clients looking for high-level transactional support in cross-border matters within and outside Asia.

As Singapore and Southeast Asian market is booming, there are many more new entrants, including firms from Europe, US, UK and Asia. However, it might take some time for them to gain strong market share and traction with local clients. For the time being, many of these firms have opened small offices as a result of their clients’ outbound investments into the region, or to build new client relationships for in-bound investments into their home markets. In many instances, firms are using their Singapore base as a hub for work across Southern Asia rather than developing any specific focus on the Singapore market itself. Several firms have established offices in Singapore which specialise in other jurisdictions around the region and are covered in our Global Guide chapters on the markets in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos.