Tiger eyes reform

Singapore’s legal leaders outline 2013 initiatives to further liberalise the market

Last Friday (4 January), the judicial and legal professions in Singapore celebrated the Opening of the Legal Year 2013. During the ceremony, Singapore Attorney General Steven Chong, Law Society president Lok Vi Ming and the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon delivered important speeches.

All three were appointed in 2012 so this was their first major public addresses. But more importantly, as Singapore’s legal market is at a critical point, the speeches provided a clear outline of where the jurisdiction’s future lies.

Among many important agendas, a number of initiatives will have direct implications on the city’s fast-growing international legal community. First of all, Singapore has renewed its commitment to further liberalise its legal services sector. This is driven by the Singapore government’s goal to boost the legal sector’s contribution to the nation’s GDP, currently 0.7 per cent.

Second, in light of increasing diversity and nationalities of lawyers and law firms in Singapore, the regulatory authorities aim to create a unified regulatory and disciplinary regime to supervise the code of ethics and professional conduct.

Last but not least, Singapore, having already established itself as a strong international arbitration seat, will encourage its courts to step up to more regional cross-border disputes. Meanwhile, it has reaffirmed that litigation work will remain solely with Singaporean firms. Thus, more international firms are expected to form joint ventures or formal alliances with local firms, Clifford Chance-style.