In a rare move, the China practice head of a Chinese law firm has moved to one of Singapore’s largest firms.
The firm, Allen & Gledhill, has hired King & Wood Mallesons mergers and acquisitions lawyer Huang Xuhua as a senior consultant.
Huang will head a 12-lawyer China practice group that covers Allen & Gledhill’s Singapore headquarters and regional network of associate firms in Malaysia and Myanmar. The firm does not have offices in mainland China. In August 2017, the firm also hired Sophia Feng, former chief representative of the Singapore International Arbitration Center’s Shanghai office, as international counsel.
China is Singapore’s largest trading partner. This past fall during Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to China, the two countries agreed to a new round of negotiation to upgrade a nine-year-old Free Trade Agreement.
The Southeast Asian city-state and Singaporean companies have traditionally been active in investing in China’s real estate, retail, and other industries.
In addition to Allen & Gledhill, other Singaporean firms have developed China practices over the years. WongPartnership has two mainland Chinese offices in Beijing and Shanghai, while Rajah & Tann has an outpost in Shanghai. In 2016, Rajah & Tann was also appointed formal legal adviser to the Chinese Embassy in Singapore. Two years ago, local firm Rodyk & Davidson linked up with China’s largest law firm by joining the Dentons network.
Huang Xuhua had been a partner with King & Wood Mallesons for 14 years; he was based in Beijing and Hong Kong before moving to Singapore in 2015 to open the new office.
Two of the other co-founding partners of the Singapore office—funds specialist John Sullivan and energy lawyer Michael Lawson—remain in the King & Wood Mallesons office. In early 2016, the firm added an international arbitration practice in Singapore by recruiting former Drew & Napier partner Lee Chau Ee; Lee has since moved to the firm’s Beijing office. King & Wood Mallesons does not practice local law in Singapore.
Allen & Gledhill is one of Singapore’s Big Four commercial law firms. It had 349 lawyers in 2016, according to the most recent Asia 50 survey.