Posted on December 6, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Those in the Asian legal world are waiting for the Singaporean Attorney General’s announcement of firms that are approved for a Qualifying Foreign Law Practices (QFLP) license in Singapore. The first of group of firms permitted to practice local law in December, 2008 were Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose and White & Case. In a speech on November 27, Attorney General Steven Chong mentioned that the announcement could be made as soon as within the next two weeks. The QLFP scheme was established after a comprehensive review of Singapore’s law service sector done in 2007, of which there were numerous proposals concerning the liberalization of the legal sector. This led to the creation of the QLFP. Previously, foreign law firms were only allowed to practice Singapore law through a joint law venture with a Singapore law firm. However, the QLFP license permits foreign law practices to practice Singapore law in certain areas, namely corporate and commercial.
With the rapid growth of the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore has witnessed an increase in business. According to a Barclays study, half of all law firms expanding in Asia chose to grow in Singapore as well. Aside from being a legal business center, UK and UK law firms also see Singapore as a foothold into India, which does not have a liberalized legal market. Preparation for increased competition following the aforementioned QFLP announcement also has many law firms bolstering their Singapore recruitment efforts, while traditionally transaction-focused firms have been lending more weight to their Singapore-based litigation practices. King & Spalding, for example, has added a new project finance team. Clyde & Co has expanded operations with plans for a joint law venture with Singapore firm Chassis, hiring new partners to its corporate insurance and projects teams, and moving to a larger office. Tuesday December 11, Clifford Chance also announced a new formal law alliance with Singaporean law boutique Cavenaugh Law, while Allen & Overy has also said it will further growth in Singapore while cutting back on its senior partner ranks in Hong Kong.
The next major event for Singapore is the opening of the legal New Year on January 4, where the Law Society President Wong Meng Meng, Attorney General Steven Chong, and the newly appointed Chief Justice will give speeches expected to set the tone and direction of the next year of internalization for Singapore’s law community.
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