Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has established a formal law alliance (FLA) with Singaporean firm Prolegis, two years after it opted out of the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) scheme.

The alliance has been created following approval by Singapore’s Attorney General and permits the two firms to co-locate in HSF’s existing premises in Singapore.

Prolegis was founded in 2012 by former Allen & Overy consultant Ban Leong Oo, who was also previously a partner of Singaporean firm Drew & Napier. The firm currently has six lawyers.

HSF first formed a “best friend” relationship with Prolegis in October 2014 and the latest move allows the two to offer integrated access to both international and Singapore law advice.

“What the FLA allows us to do is co-marketing, co-branding and offering clients a single bill and the experience of dealing with a unified team,” said HSF’s South East Asia managing partner Alastair Henderson.

HSF was among the first six international firms to be granted a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence in 2008 but chose not to re-apply for the licence in 2014. At the time, then-HSF Singapore managing partner Michael Walter emphasised that the firm remained committed to Singapore and the firm would provide clients access to Singaporean legal services in a different way.

Comparing the FLA with QFLP, Henderson said the former provides more flexibility for firms’ business development in the region.

“Clients need good streamlined Singapore law capability.We saw that back when we applied for the QFLP,” he said. “But the regulation subsequently changed and the new FLA scheme was brought in. We looked at both and decided that the FLA offers greater business flexibility in a hugely changing market. It is more permissive and with fewer restrictions compared to the QFLP.”

Prolegis’ managing director and founder Ban Leong Oo started his legal career with legacy Herbert Smith’s London office. He said the FLA was “a natural next step for the ‘best friends’ relationship”, adding, “both firms have demonstrated a real, meaningful and fully collaborative working relationship over the last year”.  

Oo also indicated that the FLA will be on a recruitment drive to build up the local practices. One of the key areas to grow will be in dispute resolution as Prolegis does not currently have a capability in litigation.

“We aim to be the leading law firm in Asia Pacific, and growing our South East Asian practice is a central part of that plan,” said HSF co-CEO Sonya Leydecker. “Singapore is the heart of this region, so broadening our services here through the alliance was a logical and important first step in our strategy.”

HSF is the latest international firm to launch an FLA in Singapore, following Withers and Holman Fenwick Willan which formed an FLA with Khattarwong and AsiaLegal respectively. Reed Smith is another firm that is in the process of establishing an FLA with the recent hire of Ince & Co’s Singapore managing partner Richard Lovell and Incisive Law’s joint managing director Mohan Subbaraman.