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K&L Gates, Withers Seal Singapore Mergers

K&L Gates and Withers have each merged with Singapore law firms, granting both further reach into Asia.

K&L Gates has combined with Singapore law firm Straits Law Practice, after receiving regulatory approval for the merger last year.

The outfits have formed K&L Gates Straits Law, with the merger completing on Jan. 1. Straits consists of 17 legal directors, with the new entity giving K&L Gates 90 lawyers in the region.

Meanwhile, Withers has combined with Singapore's KhattarWong following a three-year formal law alliance (FLA) with the local firm, creating a new entity called Withers KhattarWong.

The pair allied in 2015, with Withers absorbing all of KhattarWong's partners at the time. The newly combined outfit now has 90 lawyers in the city-state.

Withers' chief executive, Margaret Robertson, said the merger underscores Withers' commitment to Singapore, and its belief in the immense opportunities arising from the growing wealth and business environment in the Asia-Pacific region.

Withers KhattarWong will focus on private client, tax, restructuring and insolvency, dispute resolution, investment funds, real estate, and hotels and hospitality work.

Under the FLA regime, which has been in place since 2000, foreign firms are allowed to enter a best-friend relationship with a Singaporean law firm while both sides remain legally distinct. Only the Singaporean firm is allowed to advise on a range of restricted practice ares such as litigation and conveyancing.

The FLA structure has been favored by many foreign firms, as it grants access to Singaporean law practice, especially court proceedings, without a full financial merger. Other firms that operate in Singapore under an FLA licence include Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, CMS, Reed Smith, Watson Farley & Williams, Stephenson Harwood and Holman Fenwick Willan.