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Norwegian firm Wikborg Rein’s five-year formal law alliance with Singaporean firm Pan Asia Law has come to an end.
Wikborg Rein has had an office in Singapore since 2000. It established a formal law alliance (FLA) with Singaporean firm Pan Asia Law in May 2008 in a bid to offer clients combined Singaporean, English and Norwegian legal advice.
The two firms operated under the FLA branded Pan Asia Wikborg Rein until December 2013, when the formal alliance was terminated.
Both firms declined to comment on the specific reasons behind the split. However, it is understood that divergent views and interests between the two firms played a key part.
Wikborg Rein’s Singapore office, which now has four partners and eight other lawyers, is refocusing on providing international legal services in core areas, such as energy, shipping, asset finance, and offshore oil and gas exploration and production.
According to the firm’s international managing partner Geir Sviggum, who oversees its international operations, Wikborg Rein’s Singapore office currently cooperates with local Singaporean firms in order to offer clients local legal advice.
“We went through some challenges in Singapore in the past a couple of years mainly due to the change of personnel and we were sad that last year our alliance with Pan Asia had to break up,” said Sviggum. “But we’ve been building up the practice again and the billable hours at the Singapore office in the first three months of the year doubled that of the same period last year. We’ve turned the corner in Singapore.”
According to Sivggum, three of the six fee-earners working at Pan Asia at the time of the break-up have applied for a position at Wikborg Rein and joined the firm following the split. The firm is looking to grow further in Singapore as the city-state becomes an increasingly important global shipping hub.
“Singapore has been an important place for us to be in and remains so. We will continue to build up the profile of the team we already have there and will attract more top names in the local market,” said Sviggum.
Over the past a few years, Wikborg Rein has also been focusing on strengthening its English law practice in both Singapore and London.
In 2012, it hired the former general counsel of the Qatar Gas Transport Company (Nakilat) Joe McGladdery as a partner in its London office (24 January 2012). In the same year, it added former Kennedys partner Robert Joiner to the Singapore base.
Apart from the Wikborg Rein, Singapore has been an increasingly attractive location for other European firms. Swiss firm Schellenberg Wittmer has recently announced the launch of a representative office in Singapore. The office is the firm’s first overseas base.
Banking and corporate partner Philippe Borens has relocated to Singapore to head up the office as managing director. Borens was previously a partner in Schellenberg’s Zurich office.
Arbitration partner Christopher Boog will split his time between Zurich and Singapore.