Herbert Smith deploys former global corporate head to Singapore

Herbert Smith has named its former global corporate head Michael Walter as its South East Asia managing partner.

Michael Walter
Michael Walter

Walter, who will relocate from London to Singapore early next month, will take over the management role from incumbent Austin Sweeney, who is relocating to the firm’s Hong Kong office.

The firm has two offices in South East Asia, one in Singapore and one in Bangkok, and a team based with its Jakarta-based association firm Hiswara Bunjamin & Tandjung. A total of 12 partners are based in the region with the majority working out of Singapore.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth opportunities and huge potential in South East Asia and will endeavour to build up our presence in the region,” said Walter, highlighting corporate, dispute resolution and corporate finance as the three key practice areas the firm is looking at.

Walter also noted that the decision was made independently from the firm’s current tie-up negotiations with Australian firm Freehills. He is yet to formalise new strategies and priorities for his new role but will take into account the latest round of legal market liberalisation in Singapore.

Herbert Smith was one of the six international firms that obtained a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) license, which permits the firm to practice certain areas of Singaporean law. However, there will be increasing competition in this space as the Singaporean government recently announced its intention to grant more QFLP licenses in the second half of this year (29 May 2012).

Herbert Smith’s Asia practice is headed by Asia managing partner Mark Johnson, who was promoted to the role in September 2011, replacing Ashley Alder, who left to become CEO of Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (1 September 2011).

Under Johnson’s leadership, Walter will work alongside the firm’s Greater China managing partner Andrew Tortoishell and Japan managing partner Peter Godwin for the firm’s development in the region, including a plan to launch in South Korea.