Clifford Chance has finally managed to seal a joint law venture (JLV) with Singapore firm WongPartnership, three years after they first entered negotiations.
The firms were originally due to launch a JLV in November 2000. But just a month prior to this, a team of seven Wong partners, led by highly-rated corporate partner Lee Suet Fern, left to set up new firm Stamford and the deal collapsed.
To avoid conflicts, the deal – first reported on www. thelawyer.com/lawyernews will not be exclusive. “We hope to move to that,” said Clifford Chance’s Philip Rapp, who will be joint managing partner with WongPartnership’s Alvin Yeo. But until the firms’ respective leases expire, he said that was unlikely to happen. In the meantime, the firms will remain housed in separate offices.
JLVs have so far had mixed results in the region. This year alone, the Shearman & Sterling and Stamford JLV collapsed, as did that between White & Case and Colin Ng & Partners. One source claimed that local partners were hesitant about the tie-up between Clifford Chance and WongPartnership.
“The managing partner is in favour, but the rest of the local office is not very happy,” the source said, citing the difficulties with joint ventures and the cultural changes to Clifford Chance in the last two years as reasons for the discontent.
Rapp denied this was the case, adding: “JLVs have received a lot of bad press, but some firms have been quietly getting on with them and they’re providing worth to both sides.”
The JLV, named Clifford Chance Wong, will launch on 1 January 2003.