Herbert Smith Freehills Singapore ally launches local disputes practice with Morgan Lewis team

Leading litigator Daniel Chia joins Prolegis with three-lawyer team to head new practice

(l-r) Jonathan Tang, Charlene Wee, Daniel Chia and Yanguang Ker Image courtesy of Prolegis

Herbert Smith Freehills' (HSF) Singapore ally Prolegis has added local litigation capability with the hire of a four-strong team from Morgan Lewis & Bockius. 

The team is led by Daniel Chia, who has joined Prolegis as a director - equivalent to partner - and head of litigation alongside newly-minted directors Jonathan Tang and Yanguang Ker and associate Charlene Wee.  

Chia is one of Singapore's top litigators, regularly appearing before the Singapore High Court, the Court of Appeal and the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) in major commercial disputes, arbitration-linked cases and restructuring and insolvency proceedings. 

"We're delighted that Daniel will lead our new litigation practice," said Prolegis managing director Ban Leong Oo. "He and the team bring high-calibre dispute skills to our firm and our alliance with Herbert Smith Freehills." 

Chia and his team have represented multinational and Singapore companies, private capital funds, technology companies (mainly in payments and cryptocurrency services), and high-net-worth individuals – all vital client targets for HSF in Southeast Asia. 

The hires represent a logical extension of HSF's existing relationship with Prolegis, with whom it has been in a formal legal alliance since 2015, having formed a 'best friends' relationship with the firm in 2014 after surrendering its own Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licence.  

"This major investment in the Prolegis practice provides our clients with seamless access to Singapore law dispute advice," said Simon Chapman KC, HSF's Asia head of dispute resolution.  

"Daniel and his team's eminent reputation in the Singapore courts is the perfect complement to our Asia disputes practice," he added. 

Chia has joined Prolegis after eight years as a partner at Morgan Lewis; earlier in his career he was an associate at Baker McKenzie Wong & Leow and Drew & Napier. His chief attraction lies in his ability to bring together white-collar criminal and civil fraud cases, the latter being the preserve of Singapore's local courts, while the former span the SICC and the High Court. He also practises pro bono capital punishment cases for the Law Society of Singapore. 

Chia’s strong insurance practice, meanwhile, sees him regularly retained in professional liability cases across multiple industries for professionals, consultants and insurers in significant professional negligence claims – both local and regional. 

Meantime Tang advises clients on corporate restructuring, workouts and debtor-led insolvency and Ker focuses on complex commercial litigation and arbitration, employment law and white-collar criminal defence matters. 

The team will work closely with HSF's regional disputes practice, led by Alastair Henderson, particularly the firm's 14-member disputes team in Singapore, which is closely linked to offices in Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, where it also plans to expand. 

"This is a major milestone in our regional investment plans," said HSF Singapore managing partner Fatim Jumabhoy. "To meet growing client demand, we will continue to target the best lateral hires, nurture our longstanding alliance relationships and develop our existing talent." 

The team’s arrival at Prolegis comes against a background of Singapore’s rise as an international disputes hub. The city-state has introduced a number of measures in the past few years intended to cement that status, including the launch of sector list to speed resolution of complex disputes and allowing no-win, no-fee agreements in certain proceedings. 

Top 30 US firm Mayer Brown moved to build its Singapore litigation offering recently, announcing a joint venture with local firm PK Wong & Nair that will see the latter provide local litigation and related disputes advice. 

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