White & Case axes Bangkok office

White & Case axes Bangkok officeWhite & Case is set to close its third office in less than a month as Thailand follows departures from Italy and the German city of Dresden.

White & Case is pulling out of Thailand and letting its Bangkok office relaunch itself as a 58-lawyer independent firm.

The departure from Thailand follows the closure of the firm’s offices in Dresden and Milan during the last month.

A firm spokesman said: “They’re all very different scenarios and they’re not linked. They’re independent decisions based on local factors. It’s a reflection of the fact that a lot of the business is domestic.”

The decision to split from Bangkok follows discussions between White & Case’s global management and the leadership of the Bangkok office. White & Case’s office in Bangkok will become a separate legal entity named Weerawong Chinnavat & Peangpanor, which will work with White & Case on a “preferred provider” basis from January 2009. It will be headed by three partners from the current Bangkok office and staffed by the White & Case Bangkok team.

“There’s an argument that having the leading law firm in, say, Turkey, is irrelevant. If it’s profitable that’s great but if it doesn’t benefit the network then it might as well be a used car business or a drycleaners,” said a source. “If you have 60 lawyers who do purchases and sales of Thai businesses, how does that benefit the firm’s other offices?”

The US firm has endured a turbulent week after announcing that it was making three per cent of its workforce redundant on Tuesday (11 November). The cuts will account for 70 associates and 90 support staff. Those numbers do not include the 58 lawyers set free from Bangkok.

The decision to close Dresden was taken after the retirement of lead partner Axel Bauer and the decision to close Milan was taken after the firm failed to build a successful office there.