Singapore fling shortlived for White & Case

Colin Ng joint venture splits after one year; dissatisfaction rife among others

The 72-lawyer Singapore joint venture between White & Case and local law firm Colin Ng & Partners is to be dissolved just one year after it was first set up.
White & Case refused to confirm its position on the joint venture, but sources inside the firm told The Lawyer that it is irrevocably committed to dissolving the joint venture after a meeting last week. In an official statement, White & Case said: “We're in discussions about the future of the joint venture and all options are being considered.”
White & Case was one of the first firms to take advantage of Singaporean liberalisations pushed through last year to allow joint ventures between foreign and local law firms. Just seven joint ventures were approved in the first round, but several US and European law firms have since secured partnerships.
The reasons for the split are shrouded in mystery, but Singapore partners in several joint ventures are rumoured to have been unhappy for some time.
According to Singapore lawyers, local firms believe the tie-ups have yielded no significant benefits on their side. A source at the White & Case Colin Ng partnership said that several other joint venture partners were also considering terminating their agreements.
Although White & Case Colin Ng has a good reputation for corporate work in Singapore, the firm is focused primarily on finance. It has less need for domestic advice than firms which concentrate primarily on corporate and commercial work.
The split is believed to be reasonably amicable, but it will be disruptive as the firms share an office established by White & Case in 1983 and are well integrated physically. It is not yet clear whether either party will look to sign up a replacement joint venture partner.