15 December 2017

Singapore holds back licence renewals for foreign law firms to analyse contribution

Singapore could be stamping down on foreign law firms as it analyses the performance of four top foreign law firms in the run-up to renewing their licences.

Singapore has put four foreign law firms on notice to 'better assess' their performance in the run-up to granting them new licences to practise in the country. Law firms Linklaters, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day and Sidley Austin will have their licences extended for two years until a decision is made. Their five-year licences -  awarded in 2013 -  are up for renewal in 2018 but the Ministry of Law  announced that it would defer the decision until 2020 “to better assess each firm’s performance and contribution to Singapore” and their respective proposals for the new licence period. 

Legal hub

The country originally set up the Qualifying Foreign Law Practices (QFLP) licences scheme in 2008 to create a legal hub with six foreign firms successful in being awarded a licence. Of the original applicants, Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins and Norton Rose Fulbright have their licences renewed for five years. White & Case was given a one-year conditional licence in 2014 which was extended for four years if the firm could meet certain quantitative targets. According to the Ministry, nine foreign law firms hold QFLP licences, generating more than S$400 million in total revenue for the 2016/2017 period, employing more than 450 lawyers in their Singapore offices with one in three Singapore-qualified lawyers.