A&O and Norton Rose Fulbright line up for successful Singapore licence renewal

Allen & Overy and Norton Rose Fulbright are understood to have successfully completed the Singaporean renewal process to extend their Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences for another five years. 

The two firms are thought to be among six to have been through the renewal process in recent months. The Singapore Ministry of Law (MLAW) is expected to make an official announcement on the successful applicants later this week. 

The Singapore government first introduced the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) scheme in 2008 in a bid to further open up the country’s legal services sector to non-domestic firms.

 Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, legacy Herbert Smith (now Herbert Smith Freehills), Latham & Watkins, legacy Norton Rose (now Norton Rose Fulbright) and White & Case became the first six firms to win the licences out of a total of 20 applicants when the market was opened up (5 December 2008).

MLAW told The Lawyer in December that the six firms would need to renew their licences before they expired in mid-2014 and that it would review the applications. If successful, the QFLP licence will be renewed for another five years.

MLAW is understood to have notified firms on the results of their renewal applications last week.  A&O and Norton Rose Fulbright were tipped to be among the successful applicants. Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Latham & Watkins and White & Case are also likely to have received a positive outcome in response to their applications.

A lawyer familiar with the renewal application noted that it was a vigorous process, which lasted for roughly three months and involved intense negotiations with the regulators.

“Firms were required to compile and submit a large volume of financial figures on their Singapore office. In their applications, they also needed to make detailed commitments on their growth in Singapore, both in terms of quantity and quality,” said the lawyer. “The criteria falls into three main areas, commitments to the career development of Singaporean lawyers, to the use of Singaporean law in regional transactions and to the growth of international arbitration in Singapore.”

Under the QFLP scheme, the licence allows foreign firms to practise permitted areas of Singapore law. In February 2013, the MLAW handed out further four QFLP licences to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day, Linklaters and Sidley Austin (19 February 2013).

The MLAW didn’t respond to a request for comment. All six firms either declined to comment on the matter or didn’t respond to a request for comment.