The Asia 50
The Asian Lawyer presents our second annual survey of the Asia Pacific region's largest law firms, both international and domestic.
The rankings for firms in both India and Japan have remained largely unchanged. Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co., with 546 lawyers, is still the biggest Indian firm on our list and ranks 14th overall. The nearest Indian contender, Khaitan & Co, is a distant second with 300. In Japan, the Big Four firms also hold on to their top spots, with Nishimura & Asahi in the lead at 473 lawyers. The other three— Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune and Mori Hamada & Matsumoto—follow one after the other in a cluster with 340, 325 and 321, respectively. Another Japanese firm, TMI Associates, is close behind with 316 lawyers.
Singapore firms continue to be a substantial part of the Asia 50. Rajah & Tann is now the largest firm in the city-state and number 20 on our list with 480 lawyers. Allen & Gledhill, long Singapore's largest law firm, is now second with 309 lawyers. WongPartnership, the other big Singapore firm on our chart, clocks in at 285.
Singapore is the financial hub for Southeast Asia and has benefited from increased investment in the region. A considerable part of Rajah & Tann's growth has come from overseas expansion; the firm now has a presence in most Southeast Asian countries, including frontier markets like Cambodia and Myanmar.
"It's going to be a positive picture for the next few years," says managing partner Lee Eng Beng.
Other Asia 50 firms see opportunity in Southeast Asia too, with even conservative Japanese firms like Nishimura and Nagashima Ohno expanding in Singapore and elsewhere in the region in order to follow their nation's banks and corporations in search of growth abroad.
Among non-Asian firms operating in the region, U.S. and U.K. firms make up the entire top 50 [see "The Global Players"]. Baker & McKenzie is the largest international firm in Asia with 1,050 lawyers. On the U.K. side, Norton Rose has the top spot with 667 lawyers in the region. Some of the Magic Circle fill out the rest of the leading non-U.S. international firms in Asia, including Clifford Chance (393), Linklaters (352), Allen & Overy (378) and Freshfields (212).
Among U.S. firms, one saw meteoric growth for the year—Squire Sanders. In addition to launching in Perth with an 80-lawyer team poached from a raid on Minter Ellison's office in late 2011, the firm also opened an office in Sydney. At the same time, Squire Sanders launched in both Singapore and Seoul. These moves allowed the firm to grow to 116 lawyers in Asia from just 48, catapulting it past 11 of its American peers to rank ninth of all U.S. firms based in the region.
"We were really quite aggressive about taking advantage of opportunities that came our way in 2011 and 2012," says firm chair James Maiwurm.
Though he realizes China's slowing down, Maiwurm notes that the country's current growth rate of 7.5 percent, though down from over 10 percent just a few years ago, is still pretty high compared to the the numbers out of the more developed economies of North America and Europe. That, combined with a healthier Japan and a stable Korean economy, keeps him fairly positive about Squire Sanders' prospects going forward.
"We're actually pretty upbeat," he says.