Top US Law Firms Eye Singapore

Top US Law Firms Eye Singapore As Trouble With China Grows

SINGAPORE – Major American law firms impacted by new stringent Chinese regulations and the worsening ties between China and the US are turning their eyes to Singapore as a market to expand their Asian footprint, reported Bloomberg on Monday evening (21 August, SGT).

“Singapore is the place now. That’s where that business centre has moved,” Greenberg Traurig Executive Chair Richard Rosenbaum told the news outlet.

Notably, US law firms are exiting China due to its colder ties with the United States. On 9 August, President Joe Biden inked an order limiting investment in some advanced tech firms in China and days later described Communist Party leaders as “bad folks.” On 30 June, the US State Department warned Americans not to travel to China “due to the arbitrary enforcement of local laws.”

On 9 August, Dentons announced that the law firm is splitting from its Chinese operations to comply with upcoming stringent data laws that curtail how companies handle and transfer information beyond China’s borders. Proskauer Rose announced in June that it will shutter its Beijing office but maintain a presence in Hong Kong. Other law firms Baker Botts; Vinson & Elkins; McDermott Will & Emery; and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe have exited at least one China office since 2020.

On the other hand, law firms have praised Singapore’s easy access to other Asian nations and its attractiveness as a place to do business for corporate customers.

“Singapore provides connectivity to the rest of Asia, making it attractive for international law firms,” stated Gerald Singham, who helms Dentons operation in the ASEAN region. He added that the city-state appeals to law firms thanks to its institutions that provide legal services to international businesses. Among them is the Singapore International Commercial Court, where companies can go for arbitration.

Moreover, Hong Kong-based attorneys who were trapped in their homes due to China’s draconian zero-COVID policy favour Singapore, which imposed less restrictive measures, noted Lateral Link recruiter Evan Jowers. “A lot of people never want to risk going through that situation again,” he added.

In the Global Financial Centres Index survey of “future competitiveness” published last September, Singapore also surpassed Hong Kong as the leader in the Asia Pacific region.

Ashish Raivadera, a Managing Director for the legal executive search company Major, Lindsey & Africa, revealed that lawyers consider the city-state as a great place to live and work. “Singapore is a very sensible, stable regional financial centre, which has strong rule of law but is very business friendly.”

Peter Zeughauser, a consultant who advises law firms in China, expects more law firms to exit China over the coming months as foreign companies navigate new national security laws and regulations from Beijing.

Furthermore, Chinese authorities have recently raided the Chinese offices of US consulting company Bain & Co. and detained five staff at the Mintz Group, adding to concerns for foreign corporations doing business in the country.

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