Update on Qualifying Foreign Law Practice Licences Renewed in 2014
1. The Ministry of Law will be deferring the decision on the renewal of the licences of the first batch of Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (“QFLP”) firms by one year to 2020. This is to 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. The firms’ QFLP licences will be extended in the interim.
2. The QFLP scheme has been operational for close to a decade. There have been two rounds of QFLP licences issued. The first batch of QFLPs - Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose Fulbright, and White & Case - were awarded their licences in 2009 and successfully renewed their licences in 2014. Their current licences are due to expire in 2019. The second batch of QFLPs - Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day, Linklaters and Sidley Austin - were awarded their licences in 2013. Their licences were due to expire in 2018 but the Ministry decided to defer the decision on renewal to 2020.
3. The Ministry will assess each firm’s performance and contribution to Singapore and their respective proposals for the new licence period in 2020, before deciding on the renewal of their QFLP licences.
4. The QFLP scheme was introduced in 2008 following the recommendations of the Committee to Develop the Legal Sector chaired by then Justice V K Rajah. The Committee included senior partners of local law firms.
5. The QFLP scheme seeks to grow the legal sector, support the growth of Singapore’s key economic sectors, and offer additional opportunities to Singaporean lawyers.
6. The QFLP licence allow Foreign Law Practices (“FLPs”) to practise Singapore law, except in 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 of Singapore law through Singapore-qualified lawyers with practising certificates or foreign lawyers holding the foreign practitioner certificate.
7. The QFLPs have contributed strongly to the growth of Singapore’s legal sector. In 2017/2018, the nine QFLPs generated over S$400 million in total revenue, of which about 80% came from offshore work, or work that could have been done elsewhere. The nine firms also employ over 450 lawyers in their Singapore office, of which about 35% are Singapore-qualified lawyers.
8. 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.