The Singapore Government has awarded Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences to four UK firms and two US firms.
The Singapore Government is positioning itself as a local hub for Indian business and most of the firms will be expected to use the base for their Indian operations.
“We share the view that Singapore offers a very attractive environment for legal services, and is a natural hub for business throughout Asia,” said Doug Peel, executive partner of White & Case’s Singapore office.
White & Case also has an alliance with local firm Venture Law, which it will maintain unlike Clifford Chance, which ended its joint venture with The Wong Partnership last month.
Clifford Chance’s Singapore managing partner Philip Rapp said: “We intend to build our existing practices, particularly adding extra expertise in energy, Islamic finance, financial products and asset/aviation finance. We also plan to add new capabilities on the ground in Singapore in areas such as arbitration, regulatory advice and intellectual property.
“In addition to the large amounts of work in south east Asia that we manage from Singapore, we see Singapore as an increasingly important hub for servicing the Indian markets.”
Similarly, Norton Rose’s local chief Guy Spooner said the firm planned to grow its Islamic finance, renewables, competition and energy practices.
The firms will have up to six months from January 2009 to set up their QFLPs, and their licences will be valid for an initial period of five years.
The Singapore Government had earlier announced the liberalisation of the legal services sector through the introduction of a QFLP scheme. The scheme gives firms the right to practise Singapore law in permitted areas through Singapore-qualified solicitors employed by them. Previously, foreign firms could only practise through a joint venture such as Linklaters‘ alliance with Allen & Gledhill. Linklaters is continuing with its joint venture having decided not to try and gain a QFLP licence.
Linklaters Singapore partner Dean Lockhart said: “This is a positive decision we’ve made. We looked at the liberalisation and decided that this is the best way forward.”
In August 2008, foreign law practices were invited to apply for the QFLP licences. At the close of the application on 9 October 2008, a total of 20 proposals from foreign law firms were received.