Singapore-based Rajah & Tann has expanded its South East Asia network to Cambodia and Myanmar by tying up with two local firms.
In Cambodia, the firm has tied up with 10-lawyer local firm Sok & Heng and will operate as R&T Sok & Heng from 1 February. The new office will be headed by one of the Cambodian firm’s founding partners Heng Chhay. Prior to the formal tie-up the two firms have been in an association relationship for a few years.
Rajah & Tann’s Myanmar office will launch next month (1 March) by integrating Myanmar firm NK Legal into its network. The office will be branded as Rajah & Tann NK Legal. It has five fee-earners and is headed by managing partner U Nyein Kyaw who founded NK Legal.
The latest launches will give Rajah & Tann a presence in seven of the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Due to regulatory restrictions, the offices are not allowed to be fully financially integrated. However, Rajah & Tann’s managing partner Lee Eng Beng stressed that all offices will operate as one firm and will be economically integrated as far as the regulatory regime allows.
“We expect the whole South East Asian region to liberalise its markets. We have set our goal to remain independent and become a real regional player with credible local law capabilities in each of the main jurisdictions,” said Lee. “Our plan is different from what global firms will do. This is our home market and we are consolidating our foothold in this region.”
He added that the firm’s regional structure allows each office to represent clients in court and provide a full range of services.
Commenting on the firm’s Myanmar launch, Lee said: “We didn’t think we would go into the market so quickly. But driven by an extremely high level of interest, we’ve realised that it’s an opportunity we have to pursue quickly.”
“Based on the pace of reforms in Myanmar, there is clearly strong demand for legal services for corporate and transactional work including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, market access and regulatory risk assessment,” said Nyein.
Lee said there were also opportunities in Cambodia, mainly in the infrastructure, foreign investment and M&A areas.
“Most of the projects in Cambodia are connected to Thailand, Laos or Vietman. The addition of the Cambodian office competes our offerings in Indochina,” said Lee.
Rajah & Tann embarked on its regional expansion in 2011 with the oepning of its Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok offices (14 September 2011). Its network now covers Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. According to Lee, the firm’s next step is to strengthen its presence in Indonesia. It currently has an association with Jakarta-based Assegaf Hamzah & Partners, and is looking to bring the relationship closer.