Norton Rose kicks off Asia push with Singapore switch

Antony Dutton

Norton Rose has put ­Singapore at the centre of its attack on Asia, choosing the jurisdiction for its first significant strategic play since its Deacons tie-up went live this month.

The firm has transferred Australian commercial ­dispute resolution chief Peter Cash to Singapore, a move that global head of dispute resolution Antony Dutton described as “very meaningful”. It is part of a major push by Norton Rose into the Asian arbitration market, with India a ­particular target for the firm.

Cash, who comes from the Deacons side of the merger, will relocate from his current Melbourne base in May. The move will double the partner headcount at Norton Rose’s Singapore litigation practice, which is headed by the firm’s Asia head Guy Spooner.

“We have further plans for Singapore,” confirmed Dutton. “The fact that Norton Rose Australia is part of the Norton Rose group creates new opportunities to redeploy throughout Asia.
“It’s been less difficult to convince people to move now than it was before the merger.”

It is understood that the firm had been seeking a partner to bolster Spooner’s Singapore litigation team for two years prior to the Deacons deal.

The strengthened ­litigation practice will target financial institutions and technology clients, particularly in the life sciences sector.

Cash already lists GlaxoSmithKline among his clients, having acted for the pharmaceutical giant on its successful defence of an A$700m (£398m) claim in 2008.

Norton Rose was one of six international firms granted licences to operate in the jurisdiction in December 2008. It signalled the firm’s intention to focus on the country with the relocation of corporate partner Jill Gauntlett and finance partner Yu-En Ong last summer.

The merger with Deacons, which came into effect this year, creating Norton Rose Australia, has given renewed urgency to its push into Asia. The merged firm now boasts 700 fee-earners across Asia.

Other international firms are also thought to be looking at boosting their presences in the region.

Nick Peacock, a Singapore litigation partner at Herbert Smith, commented: “Singapore’s a growing market in terms of the volume and value of international arbitration disputes. Asian parties are increasingly looking to use local seats for arbitration.

“If you’re going to send people to one place in Asia, then it’s a pretty good place to start.”