Ed. note: This post is authored by Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney of Kinney Recruiting, sponsor of the Asia Chronicles. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates and partners in Asia than any other firm in the past five years. You can reach them by email: [email protected]
Alexis Lamb here, fresh off a trip to the Lion City where I enjoyed daily jogs in the Botanic Gardens, lip-smacking good pepper crab at Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, a stunning sunset view with craft beer in hand at Level 33, and some unexpectedly tasty tapas at Sabio in Duxton Hill, a newly-gentrified neighborhood which was recently the topic of a NYT photo essay. Yep, Singapore is growing up. She’s shedding her dowdy image as the girl in the horn-rimmed glasses and grey cardigan who nurses one pinot noir before retiring to bed at 11:17 PM. She’s learned a few party tricks from big sister Hong Kong, yet maintains an air of sleek maturity–without the pollution. Now on to business.
A “PROLIFERATION OF WORK, UNLIKELY TO FALL AWAY”
Indonesia. India. Thailand. Vietnam. Malaysia. Philippines. Singapore is the regional financial hub for all of these markets. So, at any given time, dealflow from these countries – plus dealflow originating from within Singapore – is in the pipeline. Contrast this with Hong Kong, who sources most of its work from the PRC, either in the form of PRC IPOs or PRC-driven M&A activity, and you will see its unique advantage. While Singapore will never be the global financial hub that is Hong Kong, it covers a variety of markets and is diversified enough so that it is not dependent on one particular country for the bulk of its activity.
When one country’s business is down – India, for example – lawyers still stay busy as a result of work flowing out of other robustly performing markets, such as Indonesia. One partner described his firm as being inundated with a “proliferation of work” that is “unlikely to fall away”. And this is even with India being relatively moribund. Imagine how busy Singapore-based lawyers would be if both India and Indonesia were booming at the same time!
PARTNERS WITH STRONG BOOKS OF BUSINESS. We have been approached by more than one law firm looking either to acquire partners in strategic practice groups for their Singapore office, or looking to do the same to facilitate opening an office in Singapore. Why Singapore? Singapore is relatively under-lawyered, especially at the elite (read: “BigLaw”) levels. This explains why a number of US and UK firms are eying entry into the Singapore market, seeing Singapore as a key strategic hub for project finance, as well as M&A, capital markets and even arbitration activity. Project finance remains the biggest draw, and Indonesia drives much of the dealflow in mining, metals and infrastructure. Singapore’s location – a 2-hour flight from Jakarta – puts it in a unique position to capture much of the work coming out of Indonesia. Some offices in Singapore source up to 80% of their dealflow out of Indonesia. Many firms looking to capitalize on the strength of the projects, energy and mining sectors are sniffing around in Singapore for projects/energy partners willing to “greenfield” their Singapore office.