Singapore’s SCs come of age

It’s less than 20 years since the role of senior counsel was introduced in Singapore, but that doesn’t mean the rank is any less worthy than the centuries-old queen’s counsel role in the UK.

At least that was the message sent by Singaporean High Court judge Steven Chong last week, when he refused to grant Blackstone Chambers silk Michael Fordham QC temporary admission to the city-state’s courts.

Fordham was seeking permission to launch a judicial review for retired banker Deepak Sharma into a decision made by a Law Society of Singapore committee.

Sharma, who said he had approached and been turned down by 20 SCs, was hoping to take advantage of a 2012 amendment to Singapore’s Legal Profession Act that was supposed to make it easier for foreign counsel to gain ad hoc admission to the city-state’s courts.

A key requirement is that foreign counsel must prove they have “special qualifications or experience for the purpose of the case”.

Although judicial review expert Fordham wrote the Judicial Review Handbook and co-edits the quarterly journal Judicial Review, judge Chong was not convinced that that made him any more qualified to represent Sharma than Singapore’s own crop of advocates.

That’s what we call a ringing endorsement of the jurisdiction’s legal elite.

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