Herbies hunts for alternative to QFLP in Singapore

Last week, news that Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) abandoned its chance to renew its qualifying foreign law practice (QFLP) licence sent shock waves through the Singapore legal community. It’s the only one of six firms that will not be renewing the 2008 licence, which allows a foreign firm to practise permitted areas of Singaporean law.

In last Friday’s announcement, the Singapore Ministry of Law also gave a rare insight into the scale of the QFLP firms’ local operation. Apparently, the first group of six QFLPs collectively generated S$1.2bn (£566.5m) in revenues over the five-year period from 2009 to 2014. The figure further illustrates the importance of Singapore’s lucrative legal market.

HSF’s Singapore managing partner Michael Walter says the firm will give clients access to Singaporean law through new channels, although what those are is up for discussion. There are a number of options on the table, such as setting up a formal law alliance and a joint law venture.

The question that hangs in the air is why did Herbies walk away from the QFLP scheme? Can it really succeed in Singapore without a licence?

Answers on a postcard please…

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