Foreign law practice
A foreign law practice may choose to set up an office in Singapore using any of the following structures by obtaining the relevant licence from the Attorney-General:
1.1 Licensed Foreign Law Practice (FLP)
FLPs are usually set up in Singapore as a branch of a foreign law firm from another jurisdiction. A FLP licensed to practise foreign law in Singapore may offer the full range of foreign law-related legal services that the firm is competent to offer.
The regulatory requirements applicable to a FLP are detailed in the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession (International Services) Rules 2008.
1.2 Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP)
The QFLP scheme was introduced in 2008, and allows foreign law practices which obtain such a license to practise Singapore law in “permitted areas of legal practice” through hiring Singapore lawyers with Practising Certificates or foreign lawyers who hold the Foreign Practitioner Certificate.
“Permitted areas of legal practice” are mainly commercial areas of law, and exclude domestic ring-fenced areas of legal practice such as (a) constitutional and administrative law, (b) conveyancing, (c) criminal law, (d) family law, (e) succession law, including wills, intestate succession and probate and administration, and (f) conduct of litigation.
Various regulatory requirements apply to a QFLP and are detailed in the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession (International Services) Rules 2008. QFLPs are also subject to other licence conditions including manpower and revenue commitments made in their QFLP application. The QFLP licence is valid for a 5-year renewable period.
QFLP licences are awarded after an application and selection process. The first round of QFLP licences were issued in 2008. The application period for the second round of QFLP licences took place in 2012 and has since closed.
1.3 Joint Law Venture (JLV) and Formal Law Alliance (FLA)
Amendments were made to the Singapore Legal Profession Act in 2000 to introduce the JLV and FLA schemes. These two schemes provide a platform for Singapore law practices and foreign law practices to enter into collaborative arrangements to provide their clients with access to a convenient “one-stop shop” for cross-border commercial and financial services. Within the JLV and FLA framework, law practices can provide their clients a range of legal services for cross-border work seamlessly.
1.3.1 Joint Law Venture (JLV)
The JLV is a new legal entity formed jointly between a SLP and an FLP. Various regulatory requirements apply to the formation of the JLV entity and are detailed in the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession (International Services) Rules 2008. JLVs can offer legal services covering foreign law as well as Singapore law in the “permitted areas of legal practice”. The practice of the “permitted areas of Singapore law” must be done through Singapore lawyers with Practising Certificates or foreign lawyers who hold the Foreign Practitioner Certificates.
1.3.2 Formal Law Alliance (FLA)
The FLA enables a Singapore law practice (SLP) and a foreign law practice (FLP) to enter into a “best friend’s” relationship and collaborate as two freestanding firms. Various regulatory requirements apply to the formation of an FLA and are detailed in the Legal Profession Act and the Legal Profession (International Services) Rules 2008. FLAs allow the SLP and FLP entering into such an alliance, the benefit of co-branding and billing, and sharing of office premises, resources and client information. Both firms however remain distinct entities and may only provide legal services that the respective firm and their lawyers are competent to provide. Ringfenced domestic Singapore law work, including areas such as litigation remain work that can solely be handled by the SLP through Singapore lawyers with Practising Certificates.
1.4 Representative Office (RO)
A RO is an office set up by a foreign law practice that does purely liaison or promotional work only. A RO is not allowed to provide any legal services or conduct any other business activities in Singapore.
Licensing and regulation of foreign lawyers and foreign law practices come under the purview of the Attorney-General. The detailed legislation, forms and relevant information on these licences can be found on the Attorney-General's Chambers website.