The Singapore legal market is one the sturdiest legal markets over the years, even during the pandemic and it continues to reassert its position as the principal commercial, financial and legal hub for Southeast Asia, as well as being a major hub for UK firms in Asia.
The need for legal assistance such as corporate services, business establishment and dispute resolution are strong and increasing. The UK-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, that came into effect in early 2021 protects and advances a longstanding trading relationship for the UK with Singapore and vice-versa.
Singapore ranks second in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 data, with this ranking being stimulated by a stable and business friendly regulatory structure, along with a strong legal services industry.
The similarities between the UK and the Singaporean legal sectors are that they both act as global hubs, advocating progressive free trade and international cooperation. They both provide homes to successful international law firms, with an open approach to providing legal services.
Below we look at some of the ways that law firms can get a foothold into the Singaporean Market;
Representative Office (RO):
This is an office set-up by a law practice based outside of Singapore, undertaking only liaison or promotional work, in or from Singapore. An RO is not allowed to provide any legal services or conduct any other business activities in Singapore, meaning it is not allowed to provide legal advice, conclude contracts or open and negotiate any Letters of Credit.
Foreign Law Practice (FLP):
An FLP is allowed to provide, in or from Singapore, foreign law-related services in all areas of legal practice that the FLP is competent to offer. Also, any Singaporean law-related services, only in the limited contact of international commercial arbitration or in relation to the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), through certain types of registered lawyers.
Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP):
The QFLP scheme allows foreign law practices, whom obtain a QFLP licence, to provide in or from Singapore foreign law-related services in all areas of legal practice that the QFLP is competent to offer, and Singapore law-related legal services, in the ‘permitted areas of legal practice’, through certain types of registered lawyers. There are currently nine foreign law firms holding QFLP licences in Singapore, examples are Latham & Watkins and Allen & Overy, four of which are UK firms.
Joint Law Venture (JLV):
A JLV is a legal entity formed between a Singaporean Law Practice and either a Foreign Law Practice or a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice. This formation allows the law firm to provide foreign law-related services, in all areas of legal practice, that the JLV is competent to offer. Also, Singaporean law-related services, in the ‘permitted areas of legal practice’, through certain types of registered lawyers.
Formal Law Alliance (FLA):
This is an arrangement between a Singaporean Law Practice and a Foreign Law Practice which enables them to collaborate, while remaining freestanding law practices. An FLA arrangement allows the member law practices to share office premises, resources and client information, as well as co-brand and bill for permitted matters. However, the member law practices remain distinct entities and may only provide legal services that the respective law practices and their lawyers are allowed to provide under the Legal Profession Act.
Singaporean Law Practice (SLP):
Law Firm, Limited Liability Law Partnership or Law Corporation: an SLP is allowed to provide, in or from Singapore, Singaporean law-related services in all areas of legal business and also foreign law-related services, in all areas of legal practice, that the SLP is competent to offer.
As you can see from above there are many ways that a law firm can establish a base in Singapore. If this is something you might be looking into and you would like some advice on the best steps to take, then please do get in touch with Emma Su at firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential discussion.