Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: Shutterstock

Dentons has completed its combination with Malaysia’s Zain & Co. as the global legal giant continues its expansion in Southeast Asia, hoping to take advantage of the region’s growing economic potential.

Kuala Lumpur-based Zain & Co., which has 30 lawyers, including 13 partners, is a full-service firm and is best known for banking and finance, corporate, dispute resolution, real estate and intellectual property.

The tie-up with Zain & Co., announced in March of this year, helps Dentons “pursue its strategy to become a pan-Asian law firm that reaches more of Asia than its competitors,” said Elliott Portnoy, global chief executive officer of Dentons. The latest combination gives Dentons reach in 74 countries around the world, including in China, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore and South Korea. Dentons is also finalizing its combination in Indonesia with local firm Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners.

Malaysia is the third-largest economy among the 10 countries known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which, according to the International Monetary Fund, would have the world’s fifth biggest economy ($2.8 trillion) and third largest population (643 million), if it were to count as one country.

Dentons has already launched in other ASEAN markets. In May of last year, Dentons launched in Myanmar by acquiring a seven-lawyer team from boutique firm Livingstons Legal; and in 2016, the firm combined with Sinagpore’s Rodyk & Davidson.

Though ASEAN members have been growing, there have also been speed bumps along the way. Malaysia’s central bank cut this year’s growth forecast to 5 percent from its previous forecast of 5.5-to-6 percent, citing global and domestic uncertainties following the election of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in May, which ended the National Front party’s six-decade-long rule.

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