Clifford Chance has hired equity capital markets specialist Raymond Tong from its former joint-venture partner in Singapore, WongPartnership.
Tong, who headed the capital markets practice at WongPartnership, worked with lawyers from Clifford Chance during the nine-year joint venture between the two firms, including most recently the $2 billion IPO last year by CapitaMalls Asia, which was the city’s largest offering in 15 years.
“Having worked side-by-side with Raymond on many of Singapore’s most notable IPOs, it is clear that he is one of the leading ECM lawyers in the market, and that his reputation among clients, regulators and professional peers is second to none,” said Crawford Brickley, Clifford Chance’s head of capital markets, Asia.
The two firms formed an alliance in 2000 to offer combined local and international advice, but terminated the agreement in June last year after Singapore relaxed restrictions on foreign law firms. Since the split, Clifford Chance has started to build its own local practice under the new framework.
The joint law ventures were a typically Singaporean solution – a scheme whereby the government, in effect, arranged tie-ups between local and international firms in an attempt to protect the city’s legal industry from unfettered competition. But the plan never really worked and Singapore has now turned to a more open model.
“We have seen the success of this one-stop shop in our Hong Kong capital markets practice for many years and we have no doubt that it will prove to be equally successful in Singapore,” said Brickley.
With the addition of Tong and the creation of a credible local capital markets practice, Clifford Chance will finally be able to offer clients seamless advice on equity transactions involving both Singapore and international offerings – something the old joint law ventures promised, but failed to deliver on.
Tong is not the first lawyer to make the move from WongPartnership to Clifford Chance. Nish Shetty, a dispute resolution partner, joined the UK law firm in August 2009, shortly after the termination agreement came into effect.
Clifford Chance was the most aggressive of the magic circle firms (the top-five London-based law firms) in cutting staff during the worst of the market slowdown, but the effect of that has been a lower cost base and better margins. According to a recent report published by a British legal industry newspaper, the firm earned £486 million ($746 million) in revenue from banking and capital markets advice last year – a fraction less than Allen & Overy, the top firm.
By overall revenue, the firm ranked first in The Lawyer UK 2009 Annual Report after earning £1.2 billion, putting it ahead of Linklaters by just £14 million. However, despite cutting staff and costs, it still ranks behind other magic circle firms in profits per equity partner. At £933,000 each, Clifford Chance’s most senior lawyers earned 27% more than the previous year, but that was still roughly half what their peers at top-ranked Slaughter and May made.
However, despite the firm’s slow revenue growth in Europe and the US, Asia has performed well for Clifford Chance and now accounts for 10% of revenue.