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Singapore is opening its doors to international firms, but what are the trends in the market right now?
“Singapore is pretty hot at the moment and the legal market remains strong due to the significant growth in pan-regional projects, infrastructure and transactional work,” notes Keith Miskelly of Garfield Robbins.
The opening up of the legal market to foreign law firms has seen a flurry of UK and US outfits line up to gain licences. This has led to considerable movement, says James Gavine, a consultant at Red Law Recruitment.
“We’ve seen a broad spectrum of firms enter, with the likes of LG and Withers targeting private client work, Addleshaw Goddard and Nabarro targeting international arbitration and disputes work, and Squire Sanders on the energy side,” he says. “And new entry to the market hasn’t been tied to just UK and US firms, with Dutch firm De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek opening a Singapore outpost in 2012 to target corporate and energy work.”
Several areas of expertise are particularly in demand, notes Eddie Tan, a senior consultant at Laurence Simons in Singapore.
“Compliance and fraud investigation experience is highly sought-after as well as those with ethics, anti-bribery and Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) experience,” he says.
International arbitration is also on the rise, according to Gavine.
“It’s still a growing area, with a number of firms entering the market and focusing on that type of work, including Addleshaw Goddard, Nabarro, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer,” he notes. “Corporate and funds practices are [also] busy and there is strong demand for energy and mining lawyers.”
What do the locals make of the influx of foreign lawyers?
“The Singapore law firms concentrate on hiring local lawyers and also locally-based Indian-qualified lawyers for their Indian practices,” says Sarah Ellis-Goldsmith of Robert Walters Singapore.
How can candidates make themselves stand out in such a competitive market?
“For those considering a move to Singapore, Asia Pacific experience is definitely an advantage, especially having worked in China,” comments Tan. “As compliance is an area of growth, experience in this remit will stand candidates in good stead.”
“Certainly get a couple of years’ post-qualification under your belt. If you’re able to get access to Asian clients it’ll make it easier to market yourself to practices in the region,” comments Gavine.
Overseas secondments and commitment to working in the region are key, according to Miskelly.
“Lawyers who have an overseas secondment on their CV (especially if it is in a country in the region or, ideally, Singapore) will stand out as they’ll be seen as less likely to suffer from culture shock,” Miskelly says. “Lawyers who want to relocate from London to Singapore need to be able to demonstrate a commitment to working in the region for at least a few years and need to show an appreciation or understanding of what it takes to work in a smaller office than what they might be used to in London. They need to be adaptable and capable of turning their hand to a wider variety of work than perhaps they are used to doing in the UK.”