US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges is gearing up for its first major play in Asia – with Singapore emerging as the preferred site for an office in the region.
The move is being drive by the firm's office in London. Office head Maurice Allen travelled to Singapore last week on a fact-finding mission and will report this findings to his partners on his return this week.
Nicholas Holt, a London based partner, said that there were “a lot of sound business reasons” for setting up.
“We have no presence in Asia and, obviously, with the way the London office is developing, it is a natural area to be in terms of our capital markets practice and the other types of work we do, such as restructuring and insolvency,” he said.
But he added that it was too early to predict what shape the Asian venture would take.
Although Singapore is the front-runner to be the firm's first office in the region, with Allen “talking to clients” and “having a look around”, Hong Kong has also emerged as a candidate.
The move highlights the firm's desire for a more global profile. Holt said Weil Gotshal “is a very big US firm which is looking at its international strategy”.
To date, its major splashes internationally have all taken place fairly recently and appear to lack a coherent strategy.
In addition to an English law practice which the firm has aggressively built up over the last two years, it has three offices in central Europe and a Brussels office which is driven by the firm's telecoms practice.
Asia is a notable gap and Holt believes that the success of the London office can be repeated in the region.
Weit Gotshal is the latest US form with an eye to Singapore. California's Latham & Watkins recently set up there.