15 Jun 2020

Eversheds Sutherland calls time on three-year Singapore merger with Harry Elias

Firm stresses commitment to Southeast Asia but Singapore future is now under review

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Eversheds Sutherland says it is ending its Singapore venture with local firm Harry Elias after just three years, putting its future in the city state into question.

Eversheds will cut ties with Harry Elias at the end of June and said it is currently reviewing its plans for Singapore.

Stephen Kitts, Eversheds’ managing partner for Asia, said: “We have been in discussion with the senior team at legacy Harry Elias Partnership over the past few months with regards to our future strategy in Singapore. Whilst there have been many positive milestones over the past three years, both firms feel the time has come to tread a slightly different path. We part as friends and on very good terms, and hope to continue our close relationship in the future.”

Kitts added that Eversheds remains committed to the Southeast Asia region. The firm has offices in Hong Kong, as well as in Beijing and Shanghai. It also currently operates an office in Brunei under the Eversheds Harry Elias banner.

Philip Fong, managing partner for Eversheds Harry Elias — who will remain at Harry Elias once the separation is complete — said: “When we first negotiated the merger, we had included a review mechanism at the three-year mark. On this review, both firms decided that the merger is not the best option for them going forward.”

He added: “Nevertheless, we look forward to continued cooperation with Eversheds Sutherland, albeit in a different form, for ongoing and future local and regional projects. We remain very committed to a regional outlook and global strategy.”

Harry Elias will revert to its original name Harry Elias Partnership on 1 July.

Singapore remains an attractive hub for international law firms to do business in Asia. Earlier this month, Japanese firm Nishimura & Asahi’s Singapore unit entered into a formal partnership with local firm Bayfront Law, giving it access to practice areas that are usually restricted for foreign firms operating in Singapore.

That alliance followed London firm Mishcon de Reya’s Singapore office opening in May, which it intends to use as a base for private client work across the region.

However, in January Taylor Wessing has lost its on-the-ground presence in Singapore after splitting with its long-term ally RHTLaw.