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Mayer Brown to Open in Singapore, Target Disputes, Finance Work

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Mayer Brown LLP, the Chicago-based law firm with 1,700 lawyers, will open an office in Singapore focused on arbitration and financing as the city aims to create a “multibillion dollar” market resolving cross-border disputes.

Kevin Owen, head of the construction and engineering practice at the firm’s Asian practice Mayer Brown JSM, will move to Singapore from Hong Kong to helm operations in the Southeast Asian city, according to an e-mailed statement today. The office will open in the fourth quarter.

Mayer Brown’s expansion into Singapore comes as the city state seeks to raise the economic contribution of its legal services market and help sustain the growth in the financial industry. Law Minister K. Shanmugam said in March that Singapore, which allowed six foreign law firms to practice local corporate law in 2008, may issue more such licenses.

Mayer Brown’s Singapore office “will further enhance our ability to serve client needs in one of the world’s key financial centers,” said Herbert Krueger, the firm’s chairman.

The Singapore office will be Mayer Brown’s eighth in Asia, where it has about 300 lawyers.

Alastair MacAulay, a Hong Kong-based partner and shipping finance lawyer, will also spend time in the Singapore office with several associates.

Singapore has handed out tax incentives to law firms and built infrastructure to help attract companies including Philip Morris International Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company, to resolve their corporate disputes there.

Singapore’s legal services industry contributed S$1.59 billion ($1.3 billion), or 0.6 percent, to the nation’s economy in 2009, according to the law ministry. That’s a 6 percent increase from S$1.5 billion a year earlier.

There are 96 foreign law practices, which can advise on international law, in Singapore as of June 1, according to the Attorney-General’s Chambers website.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Tan in Singapore at atan17@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Wong at dwong19@bloomberg.net

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