25 Oct 2022

Mayer Brown forges Singapore joint venture as it pursues twin hub strategy for Asia

Chicago giant commits to building in Singapore and continuing to grow longstanding Hong Kong arm

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Top 30 US firm Mayer Brown has announced a joint venture with Singapore’s PK Wong & Nair following local regulatory approvals. 

Known as Mayer Brown PK Wong & Nair, the joint law venture will advise on both international and Singapore law, with local litigation and related disputes advice provided through PK Wong & Nair alone. 

Founded in 1986, the Singaporean firm has grown as the city state it serves has, being very much in the vanguard of commercial firms outside power players like Allen & Gledhill, Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, the Wong Partnership and Rajah & Tann. 

The merger brings together Mayer Brown’s existing 13-partner office, which opened in 2011, with PK Wong & Nair’s eight directors — equivalent to partner — creating a 21-partner joint venture with 45 lawyers.

Both firms have equally strong transactional, projects, and finance roots, with PK Wong & Nair known for its disputes work, as well as regional insolvency practice, while Mayer Brown has high standing for arbitration, thanks to recognised partners like Paul Teo.   

Mayer Brown’s chair, Jon Van Gorp, said: “The continued growth of the market as an international legal hub, along with the increasing prominence of Singapore law as a preferred governing law across Southeast Asia, has driven client demand for an integrated local and international service offering.” 

Asia chair Duncan Abate added that PK Wong & Nair was an ideal partner for the firm given the strength of its litigation practice. 

Mayer Brown is notable among US firms for the size and quality of its Hong Kong practice, a legacy of its merger with leading independent Johnson Stokes & Master in 2007.

In the last three years, however, Singapore's competition with Hong Kong has stepped in light of China’s controversial suppression of the city's pro-democracy movement. 

Abate said the firm was committed to having two regional hubs in Asia. “Our strategy in Asia has been to build our Singapore offering as a hub for Southeast Asia, complementing our continued growth in Hong Kong, which remains the hub for Greater China and North Asia.” 

Meanwhile, PK Wong & Nair’s co-managing director Mark Wong said "the increasing international dimension of the work we undertake” meant finding an international law firm to partner with had become a “strategic imperative”. “Having worked with Mayer Brown for a number of years, forming a [JV] through its Singapore office was the logical step forward for us.” 

Fellow co-head Suresh Nair added: “From a local perspective the calibre and depth of their Singapore qualified lawyers is impressive, perfectly complementing our own practice uniquely positioned.”

Mayer Brown has made three partner lateral hires in Singapore this year. In May, Kay-Jannes Wegner relocated from leading independent Kim & Chang in Seoul to focus on energy disputes as well as construction and infrastructure-related arbitrations, particularly with larger Korean investors. 

In April, energy corporate partner Justin Tan joined from Clyde & Co with a brief to build on his Chinese and Japanese experience and Soumitro Mukerji joined the banking and finance practice in January 2022 from Hogan Lovells.

Mayer Brown’s other Asia offices are in Beijing, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai and Tokyo. 

Since September last year, US rivals McDermott Will & Emery, Greenberg Traurig and Goodwin Procter have all opened in Singapore. 

News of Mayer Brown's joint venture comes on the same day that Spain's Pérez-Llorca unveiled plans to open in Singapore in the first quarter of 2023, becoming the first Spanish law firm to have a base there.

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