U.K. Magic Circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has officially announced it will return to Singapore with a new office slated to open in mid-October.
Freshfields is relocating three partners to Singapore from Hong Kong: global capital markets co-head Stephen Revell, international arbitration co-head Lucy Reed, and recent lateral partner Gavin MacLaren, an energy and resources specialist who joined from Australian firm Allens in April.
The long-anticipated move marks the end of the firm's five-year absence from Singapore. In 2007, the firm closed its previous office and ended a joint venture with local firm Drew & Napier as part of what it described as a strategic shift towards China.
In the years since then, Singapore has expanded its role as a financial hub for Southeast Asia, most notably Indonesia, and has also made itself a destination for international arbitration. It has also become the preferred base for many firms' India practice. Rival Magic Circle firms Clifford Chance, Linklaters, and Allen & Overy are among the many international firms with substantial Singapore offices.
Freshfields said Wednesday that a spate of recent work related to the city-state prompted its relaunch. Last year, the firm advised Hutchison Port Holdings on its $5.4 billion initial public offering, Singapore's largest ever.
"Singapore is one of the world's leading financial centers and an emerging regional arbitration center," Robert Ashworth, Freshfields Asia managing partner, said in a statement. "We have ambitious plans for the office and by being on the ground, Freshfields will meet the need for integrated legal advice on complex cross-border deals and disputes."
Revell and Reed are both relatively recent transplants to the region. Formerly based in London, Revell moved to Freshfields' Hong Kong office in June 2011. He joined the firm out of university in 1979 and became a partner in 1987. From 1998 to 2002, he headed Freshfields' New York office.
Reed was based in New York until she relocated to Hong Kong earlier this year. Prior to joining Freshfields in 1999, Reed was general counsel for the now-defunct Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization, which was founded by the governments of South Korea, Japan and the United States, to arrange construction of light-water nuclear reactors in North Korea in exchange for ending its nuclear weapons program. She was also previously a lawyer with the U.S. State Department in The Hague.
McLaren joined Freshfields from the Melbourne office of Allens, though he headed that firm's Singapore office from 2003 to 2009. Last year he led an Allens team acting for French oil company Total S.A. on a $750 million investment in the Santos Gladstone liquefied natural gas project in Queensland.
The firm says the Singapore office will open with around 15 to 20 lawyers, though it declines to say how many would be relocated as opposed to locally recruited.
Freshfields will practice international law in Singapore and is not applying to practice local law as a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice. Six foreign firms were granted QFLP licenses in 2008 and the Singapore government is now considering a second round of applications from several more.