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Singh & Associates to launch Singapore with two, plans for NY, Lon, HK bases

Manoj Singh: Looking east
Manoj Singh: Looking east

Singh & Associates will open a Singapore office by late August after having been granted a licence to open a representative office there.

Singapore’s attorney general gave the firm a “representative office” licence on 29 June 2013, which will not allow the firm to practice local law. The process took around two-and-a-half months after starting in April.

Founding partner Manoj Singh said that the firm was looking to finalise between three office spaces by mid-August, after which Bangalore head and principal associate Rajdutt Singh would relocate there. One other associate, who has not yet been selected, will also relocate.

Manoj Singh said that the firm was following a “near to the client approach” in its foray, and that nearly 80 per cent of its work currently came from outside of India. “But our long term strategy is to put a full focus on Singapore and increase in size to four or five [lawyers] maybe.”

Singh & Associates entered into an alliance with the Beijing-headquartered Guangda Law Firm one year ago, seconding a partner there, and since then Singapore and China business had increased to around 7 to 8 per cent of the firm’s overall revenue. “That is the reason we decided [on opening in Singapore]. Till last year we had hardly any business [coming from China and Singapore].”

Global ambitions

Manoj Singh said that the firm currently had a small satellite office in New York staffed on a monthly rotational basis by different India-based lawyers. But he added that Singh & Associates was in the process of applying for licences to practice in the US as a foreign law firm to grow a small representative office of five lawyers by March 2014.

The other international priorities would be to open in Hong Kong and London.

“[There is an] clement of speculation that can not be denied in a business expansion,” admitted Singh about the risks involved in international expansion and accompanying spikes in overheads. “From Delhi we expanded internally to Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai by client-driven demands, and even China is paying us very well.”

Right now the business flows justified the investment, he said, but if there was a shortfall at any point in future it could be re-evaluated consciously. And the firm has always been conscious of its costs, he maintained.

“Until this date our growth has been very good for four to five years. We work in a very cost effective manner, small offices - we take property only when really required – this has helped us in putting our cost [base] very low”. Hourly billing rates, currently between $150 and $250, have not increased significantly in that time.

Singh & Associates currently consists of more than 125 lawyers, chartered accountants and company secretaries. There are five equity, and four salaried partners.

Wadia Ghandy opened an office in Singapore in December 2011 after Dua Associates in early 2010.

Four international law firms - Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day, Linklaters and Sidley Austin - were granted a licence to practice local law in Singapore in February 2013.

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