Singapore to decide fate of foreign firms in 2020

by Sol Dolor11 Jan 2019

Singapore has decided to defer to 2020 its decision on the renewal of the licenses of some foreign law firms operating in the city-state.

The move affects the first batch of Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) firms, which were awarded their licenses in 2009. The firms – Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, and White & Case – were approved to practice Singapore law, except in domestic areas of litigation and general practice, through Singapore-qualified lawyers with practising certificates or foreign lawyers holding foreign practitioner certificates.

The delay will “synchronise the timeline for the first and second batches of QFLPs to better allow the Ministry to assess all the QFLPs’ contributions to Singapore across the board,” Singapore’s Ministry of Law said.

The second batch of QLFPs – Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day, Linklaters, and Sidley Austin – was awarded their licenses in 2013. Their licenses were extended to 2020 last year, when they were due to expire.

The QLFP scheme was launched in 2008 as a way for Singapore to grow its legal sector, support the growth its key economic sectors, and increase opportunities for Singaporean lawyers.

The ministry said that the foreign firms have “contributed strongly to the growth of Singapore’s legal sector.” In the 2017-18 financial year, the QFLPs generated over S$400m million in total revenue, of which about 80% came from offshore work. Of the more than 450 lawyers the firms’ employ in Singapore, about 35% are Singapore-qualified lawyers.

“To decide whether to renew a firm’s QFLP licence, the Ministry will consider the firm’s quantitative and qualitative performance, such as the value of work that the Singapore office will generate and the extent to which the Singapore office will function as the firm’s headquarter for the region, during the licence period relative to its earlier commitments, the firm’s contributions to Singapore, and the firm’s proposal for the new licence period,” the ministry said.