Singapore has been steadily introducing timely initiatives to strengthen its legal services industry and enhance the growth of its legal sector. Consequently, it has emerged as a key legal hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Recently, the Singapore Institute of legal Education (SILE) has proposed to ease the entry requirements for foreign lawyers to practise corporate law in the city-state.
Under the current system, foreign lawyers are required to pass a qualifying examination and hold a graduate degree in law from a list of universities that have been exclusively approved by the Attorney-General. However, given the restrictive nature of the qualifying criteria, the SILE has proposed that foreign lawyers who possess three years of experience and who have also passed a Foreign Practitioner Exam (FPE) be allowed to practise corporate law in Singapore in areas such as banking, finance, and Intellectual Property, irrespective of which University they graduate from or what law degree they hold.
If adopted, the proposal will further enhance Singapore’s position as a regional legal hub enabling it to attract high caliber foreign lawyers from various jurisdictions. Given Singapore’s position as a regional business hub, there exists a growing demand for legal services from businesses in the region, especially in areas such as mergers and acquisitions; trade disputes; and international arbitration. However, lawyers are in short supply in Singapore. One way of filling the market gap is by encouraging foreign lawyers to practise in Singapore.
According to Ms. Jacqueline Low, the the the Director of Singapore company registration agency Janus Corporate Solutions,
“It is important for the legal industry to grow in line with the financial industry. If you look at Hong Kong, New York and London you will notice that they are not only financial hubs but also legal hubs in their own right. Singapore is fast catching up as a legal center, especially with neighboring Hong Kong. The quality of legal services, robust arbitration infrastructure and growing pool of high calibre lawyers is what makes Singapore’s legal sector competitive.”
In recent times, the Singapore government has been focusing efforts on liberalizing and strengthening its legal services sector by way of tax incentives, strengthening the legal education infrastructure, and developing state-of-the-art business infrastructure. Today, there are more than 90 foreign law firms and about 920 foreign lawyers practising in Singapore.
This video is the first part of a three part series on Singapore’s role as an international center for arbitration.
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