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More Law Firms To Come To Singapore

More foreign law firms are expected to practise their legal services in Singapore after the second liberalisation of the country’s legal sector which will begin during the second half of 2012. The liberalisation is seen to push Singapore in becoming one of the legal hubs in Southeast Asia, another feat for the fast-rising city-state.

More than five years after the approval of the liberalisation proposals, Singapore has opened its doors for six foreign law firms to expand in the country, allowing them to practise corporate and commercial law. Among the foreign firms that were granted licenses during the first round of liberalisation include London-based Herbert Smith LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Norton Rose LLP and Allen & Overy LLP; Los Angeles-based Latham and Watkins LLP and New York-based White & Case LLP.

“The first round of liberalisation has done better than we could have expected,” Law Minister K. Shanmugam told the media. He also added that the legal sector has experienced a growth of 10 percent year-on-year since 2007.

New applications will be bestowed to foreign law firms during the second half of the year. These firms would have to wait until early 2013 for the processing of their applications. Committees have been set up to review such applications which include senior leaders from the Economic Development Board, Attorney-General’s Chambers, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, and the Ministries of Finance, Trade, Industry, Law and Education.

Information sessions will be organized by the Law Ministry of Singapore for interested foreign law practitioners to brief them of what to expect during the application process and of Singapore’s law and business climate.

Singapore’s total foreign attorneys have doubled from 633 to 1,200 during the past four years following the liberalisation scheme of the legal market. Joint ventures between foreign companies and local law firms, while slowing down recently, have also seen an increase since 2001.