WFW completes double energy partner hire from McDermott in Singapore

Clarinda Tjia-Dharmadi and Merrick White’s move leaves McDermott with just one Singapore partner

Clarinda Tjia-Dharmadi and Merrick White Photos courtesy of WFW

Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has bolstered its Singapore practice through the strategic hires of two leading energy partners Clarinda Tjia-Dharmadi and Merrick White from McDermott Will & Emery.

The duo’s arrival significantly enhances WFW’s capabilities in Asia’s vibrant energy market, a highly active sector recognised by the firm.

Clarinda Tjia-Dharmadi, a seasoned project development and finance veteran, joins WFW’s seven-partner global energy sector steering group, charged with fostering increased collaboration across the firm’s global energy sector.

She is expected to lead the firm’s strategic expansion of WFW’s energy practice in the Asia-Pacific region, aiming to replicate WFW’s success across broader geographies, such as the Middle East, which saw a four-partner expansion from Ince Dubai in March.

Tjia-Dharmadi has advised on power, oil and gas, petrochemicals, infrastructure and mining projects across Asia for more than two decades. She previously served as a global co-chair of Latham & Watkins’ energy practice, where she worked for 22 years before joining McDermott in 2021.

She has pioneered innovative project structures in Indonesia’s energy sector and advised sponsors, developers and lenders in the power and renewables space since Indonesia’s IPP (independent power producers) programme started. She has also advised oil majors, foreign investors and government agencies on Indonesia’s significant oil and gas, LNG and petrochemical projects.

With his extensive experience and broad understanding of the global energy industry, Merrick White focuses on oil, gas, LNG, refining, petrochemical and power project development. His expertise extends to renewable energy and transition projects, including wind, solar, hydro and more.

White’s move to WFW will enhance the firm’s Asian project offerings, leveraging his 26-year tenure in the region alongside his background as a chartered chemical engineer. His experience includes three years at McDermott, before which he spent eight years at King & Spalding and nine years at Clifford Chance, including three years in Indonesia.

WFW has had an office in Singapore since 1998, having terminated its 2011 joint venture with Asia Practice in 2016. For much of that time, it was managed by shipping lawyer Mei Lin Goh, the longstanding head of its Singapore office, who passed away in 2022.

WFW’s global energy sector co-head, Henry Stewart, welcomed the new hires, saying: “Their experience and expertise across the energy sector is second-to-none and will transform our offering in Asia and be instrumental in helping our clients achieve their objectives in this thriving region.”

The departures of Tjia-Dharmadi and White come at a time when McDermott has seen significant changes in its Asia practice, including the exit of several key personnel since re-establishing a physical presence locally in 2021.

Having hired Ignatius Hwang from Squire Patton Boggs (SPB) alongside White in 2021, it added dealmaker Alfred Chia from SPB, dual-qualified US/UK partner Siddhartha Sivaramakrishnan from Herbert Smith Freehills, and then Tjia-Dharmadi from Latham.

In 2022, a four-lawyer investigations and compliance team arrived from Sidley Austin, led by Yuet Ming Tham, Sidley’s former head of Asia-Pacific. She took the same role with McDermott before returning to Sidley shortly thereafter.  

Hwang left McDermott last year to establish his own practice, Magellan Law. This month, he was joined by Dawn Tan from McDermott, now Magellan’s managing partner. Chia left the firm in March 2023, and his current career destination is unknown.

Those departures leave Sivaramakrishnan, who splits his time between London and Singapore, as the sole partner at McDermott’s Singapore office. The firm’s London office welcomed private equity veteran Graham White last month and subsequently hired Fatema Orjela earlier this month

A McDermott spokesperson said: "We continue to provide the highest level of service to our clients in Singapore and across the Asia-Pacific region and are committed to our team.”

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