Good News and Bad News for Singapore Legal Market

The good news is that several international firms have clinched the Qualifying Foreign Law Firm (QFLF) licenses to set up their law firms in Singapore. 4 UK firms and 3 US firms, namely Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith, Latham & Watkins, Norton Rose and White & Case have won the licences ahead of 14 other firms. The total of 6 licenses given out were an increase from the original 5 licenses that were up for grabs.The scheme gives the foreign firms the right to practise Singapore law in permitted areas through Singapore-qualified lawyers employed by them. Previously, foreign firms could only practise through a joint law venture. As announced a short while back, Clifford Chance had broken off its joint law venture with Wong Partnership, undoubtedly because it had already submitted its proposal to get the QFLF and perhaps there were already indications that it had succeeded.The bad news for the legal market is that the wave of lay-offs in the US and UK legal market will likely hit the Asia-Pacific region. ALB is of the opinion that the question is not if the Asia-Pacific legal services market will be hit by this wave of redundancies but when.ALB reports on the talk that one of Singapore’s most prestigious capital markets and M&A practices had already kicked a number of its lawyers to the kerb in an effort to reduce costs. I have also heard some mention of Singapore law firms thinking about not paying out bonuses for this year. Would have been previously unimaginable hearing talk like that.

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