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Shearman & Sterling and Singapore firm Stamford are reviewing their joint venture after discontent on both sides has led to mounting tension in the office
As yet there has been no formal decision to terminate the year-old venture, but several options are being considered for its future. A source within the joint venture cited an inequality in the amount of work generated by the two teams as the main source of tension. The source said: "A large amount of the work being done by the Americans in Singapore was technology work, which is no longer there. When the tech bubble burst, it was not just in California, but in Singapore too. Their work all dried up. Now there's inequality in the joint venture." The source added: "The Stamford partners feel they're supporting a bunch of very expensive Americans who are sitting around doing nothing." However, London man-aging partner Kenneth MacRitchie said the balance of work was not the issue. "Shearman & Sterling is a one partnership firm. On that basis whether any partners are less busy than others is irrelevant to the cohesiveness of the firm," he said. One source said that local and international lawyers advised on a large proportion of work together. Shearmans is the latest in a string of firms to experience difficulties in Singapore. Last month Australian firm Freehills ended its strategic alliance with Alban Tay Mahtani & de Silva, and in April White & Case ended its year-long joint venture with Colin Ng & Partners. In many ways, government legislation has not helped the situation between local and international firms. "Shear-mans very much expected this was going to be an acquisition of a Singapore firm," said the joint venture source. "But that's not what the law in Singapore permits." It is understood that the legislation on joint ventures, which was introduced two years ago, is being reviewed.