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Award of the second round of Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licences

Posted in Press releases

1          The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) invited applications for the second round of Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences on 1 July 2012.  Twenty-three applications were received by the closing date of 31 August 2012.


2          QFLP licences will be awarded to the following four firms (listed in alphabetical order):


- Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher;

- Jones Day;

- Linklaters; and

- Sidley Austin.


3          The firms will have up to six months from 1 April 2013 to commence their operations as QFLPs, and their licences will be valid for an initial period of five years from the respective start dates.


Background


4          The QFLP scheme was introduced in 2008 following the recommendations of the Committee to Develop the Legal Sector chaired by Justice V K Rajah.  The Committee, which included senior lawyers from top local firms, assessed that local firms and local lawyers would benefit from the increased foreign presence and competition over time.


5          The QFLP licences allow Foreign Law Practices (FLPs) to practise in permitted areas of Singapore law1.  The scheme seeks to support the growth of key economic sectors, grow the legal sector, as well as to offer additional opportunities for our lawyers.   A total of six FLPs2 were awarded QFLP licences in the first round in 2008. 


6          The nominal value added of the legal services sector has since grown by more than 25 per cent from S$1.5 billion in 2008 to an estimated S$1.9 billion3 in 2012.  Singapore is also exporting more legal services. From 2008 to 2011, the value of legal services exported from Singapore increased by 51.8 per cent, from S$363 million in 2008 to S$551 million in 20114


7          In particular, arbitration activities have grown significantly. Singapore is now recognised as one of the preferred seats of arbitration in the world5. The total number of new cases handled by the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has increased from 99 cases in 2008 to 235 cases in 20126.  In addition, the total sum of disputes arbitrated in SIAC in 2012 was S$3.61 billion, more than the total sum of disputes in 2010 (S$1.35 billion) and 2011 (S$1.32 billion) combined. 


8          Collectively, the liberalisation of the legal sector has generated more opportunities and exposure for Singaporean lawyers. 


Selection Process


9          Following a favourable review of the performance of the first round of QFLP licensees, FLPs were invited to apply for a second round of licences.  The applications were first considered by an Evaluation Committee chaired by Dr Beh Swan Gin, Permanent Secretary (Law)7.  A Selection Committee, chaired by Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law, Mr K Shanmugam8, then decided on the award of the QFLP licences, taking into account the Evaluation Committee’s recommendations.


10         In determining the award of licences, the Evaluation and Selection Committees took into account, factors such as:


a)      The value of offshore work that the firm's Singapore office will generate;

b)      The number of lawyers who will be based in the Singapore office;

c)      The areas of legal practice that the Singapore office will offer;

d)      The extent which the Singapore office will function as headquarters for the region, and

e)      The FLP’s track record. 


11         The applications received were of high quality.  The four firms that will be awarded the QFLP licences are ranked among the world’s top 20 law firms9.  They have extensive global networks and deep expertise in key practice areas10 that will support the growth of the Singapore economy and the development of our legal services. 


Conclusion


12         The second round of QFLP licences awarded marks Singapore’s continued push to broaden and deepen its legal services market.  It will also reinforce Singapore’s position as a premier global and regional legal services hub.  



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[1] Permitted areas are all areas except domestic areas of litigation and general practice, for example, criminal law, retail conveyancing, family law and administrative law. The QFLPs can practise the permitted areas through Singapore-qualified lawyers with practising certificates or foreign lawyers holding the foreign practitioner certificate.


[2] The six FLPs awarded QFLP licences in the first round were Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose and White & Case.


[3] The 2012 value added of legal services sector is an estimated figure.


[4] In 2010, offshore revenue of the six existing QFLPs is estimated to have grown by about 20 per cent from 2009 to about S$170 million.


[5] In White & Case’s 2010 International Arbitration Survey, respondents ranked Singapore as the 3rd most preferred seat of arbitration (tied with Paris and Tokyo) after London (ranked 1st) and Geneva (ranked 2nd).


[6] Please refer to SIAC's press release available here.  SIAC’s 2012 statistics shows that the total number of new international cases it handled increased from 71 in 2008 to 158 in 2012. 


[7] The other Evaluation Committee members are Mrs Koh Juat Jong, Solicitor-General; Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, Managing Director, Economic Development Board; Mr Ng Wai Choong, Deputy Secretary (Policy), Ministry of Finance; Mr Ngiam Shih Chun, Deputy Secretary (Industry), Ministry of Trade and Industry; and Mr Ng Nam Sin, Assistant Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore.


[8] The other Selection Committee members are Minister for Education Mr Heng Swee Keat; Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran; Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Ms Indranee Rajah; Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Mrs Josephine Teo, and the Attorney-General Mr Steven Chong.


[9] According to American Lawyer Top 100 Firms, 2012


[10] These practice areas include corporate work (M&A, private equity), project finance, banking & finance, capital markets, energy, international arbitration, intellectual property, fund formation and restructuring.  


Last updated on 20 Feb 2013