Watson Farley launches joint venture with Singapore’s Asia Practice

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has established a joint venture in Singapore that will see 15 partners and more than 30 legal staff working under the banner of Watson Farley & Williams Asia Practice.

The joint law venture (JLV) has created between WFW’s Singapore office, which opened in 1998, and local Singapore firm Asia Practice under Singapore’s new enhanced JLV scheme. The JLV allows two firms to share profits and will enable WFW to provide services for both cross-border and Singapore law transactions and disputes.

WFW’s Singapore partner firm was established in 2010 and currently has five partners and three other legal staff. It is led by banking partner Leon Low, who joined from Shook Lin & Bok, and litigation partner Mark Tan, who joined from Rajah & Tann.

The JLV will be co-headed by WFW’s Singapore head Chris Lowe and Low at Asia Practice. It will focus on banking and finance, corporate, capital markets, insolvency, debt restructuring and international arbitration.

WFW’s Lowe said that the JLV arrangement offers a more flexible alternative to the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences used by some foreign firms to develop their Singapore law practice.

“Compared to the QFLP scheme, the enhanced JLV arrangement allows us to provide one-stop shop services to our clients with the extra ability to provide through WFW and Asia Practice full litigation support, and also operate in Singapore without the same restrictions and constraints of the QFLP licences,” said Lowe.

Over the past year US firm Duane Morris and UK firm Pinsent Masons have also established JLVs in Singapore.

“The enhanced JLV structure has been around for some time, but now there’s a definite trend and interest among foreign firms keen to make it work,” said Lowe.

“We think the best way to go for it is to set up a JLV with a group of identified individual lawyers who share the same strategic ambitions and culture. I’d expect more foreign firms to adopt this market arrangement. We expect a trend towards taking on this model, instead of waiting for new QFLP licences to be issued or the unconditional liberalisation to happen in Singapore.”