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Law Firms Making a Beeline for License to Practice in Singapore

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Law firms go where the money is and where commercial growth of the economy makes sense in investing. Almost every economic analyst knows that the larger Asia-Pacific region, China, and certain parts of Africa are the new emerging markets while countries like India and Brazil are ‘still emerging’ markets. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that law firms are making a beeline for Singapore which is one of the best economies of the world and is a communication hub for reaching the rest of Asia. As the city of Singapore opens up its legal market, the big law firms are responding eagerly.

Singapore is accepting the second round of applications for licenses allowing foreign firms to practice Singapore corporate law and hire local lawyers, and it seems almost every big law firm is bidding. DLA Piper, the world’s second-largest law firm by revenue, and also Jones Day, lead the names on the list of bidders for licenses to practice corporate law in Singapore.

Other law firms bidding for licenses to practice corporate law in Singapore include K&L Gates LLP of Pittsburgh, Watson, Farley & Williams LLP, of London and others.

The first wave of law firms, who licensed themselves for practice in Singapore back in 2008, appears to have doubled their revenues in five years. The first wave of foreign law firms in Singapore included White & Case LLP, Latham & Watkins LLP, Clifford Chance LLP, Herbert Smith LLP, Allen & Overy LLP and Norton Rose LLP.

While mergers and acquisitions have been dropping in U.S. and Europe, in 2011, Singapore saw a 25% increase in mergers. Sushma Jobanputra, a partner in charge of Jones Day’s Singapore operations told Bloomberg, “Asia is a key driver of global economic growth … With that growth will come the increased need for Singapore law advice.”

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Singapore’s law ministry, depending upon the quality of the applications, grants the licenses for Qualifying Foreign Law Practice. The law ministry would be awarding the licenses by the end of the year.

Foreign firms, which do not possess the formal license to practice corporate law in Singapore as issued from the law ministry, can advise on Singapore corporate law only through joint ventures or refer clients to local lawyers or law firms.

The lucrative and growing economy has seen the number of foreign lawyers present in Singapore double in the last five years.

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