King & Spalding says it has applied for government permission to open an office in Singapore to serve as its regional hub for energy and commercial arbitration work.
Robert D. Hays Jr., the firm’s chairman, said King & Spalding has a number of clients who do work in Singapore, other parts of Asia, the Indian subcontinent and Australia.
The firm’s initial practice focuses were influenced by the region’s rich deposits of liquid natural gas, which creates legal work in that segment of the energy practice. Also, Singapore is home to two major dispute resolution centers — the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and Maxwell Chambers — which have made Singapore an arbitration focal point for the region.
“A lot of people are going to China or Hong Kong – but with the focus for our energy work it just seemed this was a good place for us,” said Hays. “Also, Singapore has become an incredibly important venue for international arbitration. It’s a key international arbitration center for commercial dispute in that area.”
Hays said he hopes to get government go-ahead to open the office in September.
Philip R. Weems, a specialist in liquid natural gas-related matters who served as managing partner of the firm’s Dubai, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi offices, will head the new Singapore outpost. An international transactions partner from the firm’s Houston office, Daniel R. Rogers, along with John Savage, a recruit who formerly headed Shearman & Sterling’s Asian disputes practice and served as vice chairman of that firm’s international arbitration practice, will complete the team.
Hays said additional practice areas planned for the office include Islamic finance and Sharia-compliant transactions, which have been on the rise in Indonesia, Singapore and other parts of Asia, as well as real estate capital markets and private equity-related deals.
Singapore offers an active business arena for lawyers. The country’s Ministry of Trade and Industry forecast 15 percent growth for 2010. The New York Times reported in July that in the second quarter of this year, Singapore’s economy grew more than 19 percent from the same quarter a year earlier. The main driver, the newspaper reported, was the country’s manufacturing sector, thanks to growth in biomedical manufacturing and electronics. Tourism also promoted the country’s growth.
Singapore also may offer less legal competition than other Asian locales. The country hosts the offices of roughly 38 firms, including three with local connections: Bryan Cave, Duane Morris and Jones Day. Hong Kong, by contrast, hosts more than 700 law offices, according to information on Martindale.com.
Although King & Spalding is not launching its new office with any Atlanta attorneys, one former Atlantan from a different law firm already is in Singapore. Earlier this year, David I. Adelman, previously a Sutherland partner and Georgia state senator, became the U.S. ambassador to the island nation.