Doubt over future of Slaughters Singapore

Slaughter and May‘s Singapore office is facing closure, The Lawyer can reveal. One of the two Singapore-based partners, Simon Hall, is due to return to the UK this year. Slaughters is taking this opportunity to review the office and make a decision on its future.

One insider confirms that closure is on the cards. “No decision’s been taken yet, but it’s being reviewed and it can go one of several ways. But I think it will go one particular way,” he says.

The Singapore legal market has recently undergone a radical overhaul. Last year the Singaporean authorities allowed international firms to practise local law for the first time by forming joint ventures with domestic practices.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklaters & Alliance, Allen & Overy and Lovells have all taken that route. A handful of US firms, including White & Case and Shearman & Sterling, have also hooked up with local practices.

Outgoing senior partner Giles Henderson says that the firm’s international capability is constantly being reviewed, although he emphatically rules out the possibility of a joint venture.

He refuses to talk specifics about the office’s future but concedes that “there’s an issue in relation to Simon Hall, who’s been out there for quite a long time and who’s due to return in the near future.”

Slaughter and May is one of a handful of big-ticket firms around the world that has eschewed globalisation in favour of independence.

It has only five overseas offices: New York, Paris, Brussels, Singapore and Hong Kong. It does, though, have best friend arrangements with a range of firms, including US firm Davis Polk & Wardwell and German independent Hengeler Mueller Weitzel Wirtz.

Slaughters opened in Singapore in 1995. Along with Hall, fellow company, commercial and finance partner Steven Galbraith is also based in Singapore.

Slaughters does not shy away from closing its overseas offices. In the same year that it opened in Singapore, it pulled the plug on its Tokyo office because of an apparent lack of business.