Morrison & Foerster is returning to Singapore after a three-year hiatus.
The San Francisco-based firm is finalizing the necessary regulatory approvals for what will initially be a two-partner operation, and expects to launch early next year.
Asia managing partner Eric Piesner, currently based in Tokyo, will relocate to Singapore to lead the office. Fellow Tokyo partner Eric Roose will also make the move.
Piesner heads Morrison & Foerster’s Asia real estate practice and focuses on advising banks and other institutional investors on major property deals. Last December, he advised Singapore-listed Global Logistics Properties on a $1.6 billion joint venture with China Investment Corp. to acquire warehouse properties in Japan.
Roose is a leading international tax specialist who joined Morrison & Foerster last year from the Tokyo office of White & Case.
The firm closed a previous Singapore office, which opened in 1997, in 2009. It is not alone in rethinking Singapore, though. U.K. firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last month announced its own return to Singapore, after closing there in 2007.
Piesner says a growing amount of legal work at the firm — from dispute resolution and private equity to mergers and acquisitions and tax — has a “Singapore nexus” and many of the firm’s clients are there, Piesner says.
“We see that part of the world as important for our clients and ourselves,” he says.
The firm will start with corporate, real estate, tax, fund formation and private equity, according to Piesner, but intends to add dispute resolution, energy and project finance. A number of associate transfers to Singapore are expected once the office has been established, and Morrison & Foerster intends to recruit lateral hires as well.
The new office will operate under a foreign-law license, and will not practice Singapore law. Morrison & Foerster did not apply for a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice license, Piesner says.
Morrison & Foerster, which has one of the biggest Japan practices of any U.S. firm, certainly stands to gain from growing Japanese investment in Southeast Asia, but Piesner says the client focus in Singapore will be broader. Morrison & Foerster will look to serve any clients looking to enter the region, as well as those already doing business there. Piesner will also work with Singapore-based clients aiming to expand beyond the city-state.
The firm has more than 1,000 lawyers worldwide, with Asia offices in Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai, along with Tokyo.