B&M requests extension for Singapore application

Baker & McKenzie has requested a three-month period of grace from the Singapore government to re-submit its application for a joint-venture agreement.

The news comes as seven UK and US firms have made Singapore legal history by winning licences to form joint ventures with local practices.

Of the nine firms which applied for the licences, two are still being considered – Weil Gotshal & Manges and Baker & McKenzie – and there is no indication of when the Singapore authorities will make a decision.

A spokesperson for Baker & McKenzie's international office in New York says: “The firm has requested an extension because we have learned of some new criteria that are involved.” He would not elaborate on what the new criteria were.

He adds: “Our application has not been rejected. We are co-operating with [the Singapore authorities] and they are assisting us.”

The joint ventures allow non-domestic firms to practise in the country. The government announced the plan last year as part of an overall shake-up of the legal market. Initially there were only five licences available, but sources close to the market say that the government would extend that amount if the quality of the applications were high enough.

Clifford Chance has won a licence with the Wong Partnership, despite concerns that its chances were hindered after an original application – thought to include the possibility of full merger after three years – was turned down.

It is the second major international win in recent weeks for Freshfields, which hooked up with Drew & Napier, and Linklaters & Alliance, which will establish a limited liability corporation with Allen & Gledhill.

Earlier this summer the firms merged with Germany's Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber and Oppenhoff & Rädler respectively.

Linklaters' Asian managing partner Andrew Roberts says: “It is a further step in the global strategy of providing the best possible local advice and is a further step in our Asia expansion.”

Allen & Overy already has its sights on regional expansion. Asia managing partner Paul Monk says: “Our strategy is to work together as much as possible with the Singapore guys on the UK and US transactions.”

Other firms granted licences are White & Case and Colin Ng & Partners, Lovells and former Norton Rose alliance partner Lee & Lee, and Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe and Helen Yeo & Partners.