Herbert Smith Freehills Tokyo-based Asia disputes head Peter Godwin has moved to Kuala Lumpur to lead the firm’s new office there.
The office, expected to launch in May, will have six lawyers including three existing Herbert Smith Freehills lawyers. Godwin is joined by corporate partners Vik Tang, a Malaysian national, from Jakarta, and Glynn Cooper, formerly a senior associate from Brisbane office. The firm has made three hires: an Islamic finance specialist from the Middle East and two Malaysian lawyers in corporate and disputes.
Herbert Smith Freehills announced in January that it had received a Qualified Foreign Law Firm, or QFLF, license from the Malaysian Bar Council to open an office following the legal market liberalization in the Southeast Asian country. The license requires at least 30 percent of the lawyers in the QFLF to be Malaysian nationals; but the office is not allowed to advise on Malaysian law.
Godwin said the Kuala Lumpur office will focus on representing Malaysian companies on three types of outbound work: Islamic finance, corporate and disputes. The firm said it has worked with Malaysian clients for more than 20 years.
The liberalization of Malaysia’s legal market is part of the effort to support the government’s Malaysian International Islamic Finance Centre initiatives. The QFLF licenses are only granted to international law firms with expertise to contribute to the government’s goal to make Malaysia a global hub for Islamic finance.
Herbert Smith Freehills said the Kuala Lumpur office is part of the firm’s ongoing expansion of Islamic finance practice. In February, it appointed Riyadh office managing partner Nasser Al-Hamdan as the firm’s global head of Islamic finance. Al-Hamdan and Dubai-based Middle East managing partner Zubair Mir will work in Kuala Lumpur “on a regular basis,” said the firm.
An international arbitration specialist focusing on Japan-related disputes, Godwin joined legacy Herbert Smith in Hong Kong in 1998; he moved to Tokyo two years later to help build the newly launched office there and has stayed since. He made partner in 2002 and became office managing partner in Tokyo in 2010. In 2013, Godwin was appointed Asia disputes head following predecessor Gavin Lewis’ departure to Linklaters.
Godwin said the business model of the Kuala Lumpur office will resemble that of the Tokyo office, where he had represented Japanese companies on international disputes. He will continue to represent Japanese clients while in Malaysia and travels to Tokyo periodically.
Following Godwin’s departure, Herbert Smith Freehills’ Tokyo office will continue to be run by office managing partner David Gilmore, who also leads the Japan disputes practice.
In 2015, U.K. firm Trowers & Hamlins became the first international firm to be granted the QFLF license. It now has four lawyers, including two partners, residing in Kuala Lumpur.
[This article was originally published on law.com]