Law Firms

Singapore Welcomes Foreign Lawyers, Grants 6 Law Firm Licenses

Catching up to other Asian markets that have invited foreign lawyers to practice locally, Singapore is opening its doors to the legal profession by issuing licenses to practice to six Western law firms.

In the past, law firms could only advise clients on Singapore law via joint ventures. But the government today issued new Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licenses to firms including Clifford Chance, White & Case and Latham & Watkins, according to reports from Bloomberg and Asia One News.

The other three firms getting licenses are Allen & Overy, Norton Rose and Herbert Smith.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam announced the move at a press conference and is quoted as saying that the change will “realize the potential of our legal services sector to develop into an engine of growth in its own right.”

Shanmugam estimated that the move will help these firms double their revenue, staffing and profits in Singapore over the next five years, Bloomberg reports.

Foreign firms still cannot appear before courts and face other restrictions.

Philip Rapp, Singapore managing partner of Clifford Chance, told Bloomberg that his firm intends to build practices in energy, Islamic finance and arbitration.

But Linklaters, at least for now, is sitting tight with its Allen & Gledhill joint venture.

“While these new licenses will certainly enhance competition, our clients have told us they’re very happy with our work and our relationship with Allen & Gledhill dates back beyond our joint venture to the 1980s,” Dean Lockhart, a Singapore-based partner of Linklaters, is quoted saying.

Also, considering the plight of the financial markets, it will take time for firms to build up Singapore operations.

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