Links’ Singapore ally mulls switching allegiance to A&O

Singapore firm Allen & Gledhill (A&G) is considering dumping joint venture partner Linklaters for Allen & Overy (A&O) as local firms look to gain access to the wider Australasian market. (3 November) revealed that A&O is holding exploratory talks with 300-lawyer A&G – Linklaters’ joint venture partner in Singapore for 10 years – that an A&O spokesperson said “may or may not lead to proposals for a combination of the two firms.”

Linklaters would not comment on its relationship with A&G. However, according to local lawyers, domestic firms are feeling increasingly left out of the regionalisation taking place across Asia and a tie-up with A&O would gift A&G access to the key Australian market.

Meanwhile, A&O’s decision to seek another tie-up partner after breaking off its joint venture with Singapore’s Shook Lin & Bok in 2008 is being seen as evidence of disappointment with the country’s Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence scheme.

“If the A&O-A&G deal goes through I suspect it will raise a lot of concerns about the QFLP scheme and will spur the government to ­further liberalise the legal service industry,” said one firm leader in Singapore. “Singapore may soon be like Hong Kong, where foreign law firms are allowed to obtain local law capability.”

It is understood that talks between A&O and A&G began at least a month ago, with the UK firm also ­showing interest in the Wong Partnership.

Last month A&O moved into office space next door to A&G in Singapore’s ­marina area.