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Singapore Government Criticizes Clifford Chance
Clifford Chance’s branding in Singapore as “the first full-service, integrated law practice in Singapore,” has come under heavy fire from Singapore authorities as inaccurate and misleading. Singapore law minister K Shanmugam said Clifford Chance had played a “clever word game” that “could be read to mean that a foreign law firm can now practice litigation in Singapore. That would not be accurate.”
Shanmugam’s words were in reaction to a question raised in the parliament by Singapore MP, Lim Biow Chuan who asked about the status of foreign law firms operating in Singapore.
Asserting that Singapore government officials had already contacted Clifford Chance over the matter, Shanmugam said the branding “conveyed an inaccurate picture and should be stopped.”
Shanmugam also added that the government will not condone arrangements where a Singapore Law Practice is “for all intents and purposes, a proxy of the FLP [foreign law practice].”
Singapore recently amended and liberalized the Legal Profession Act allowing greater collaborations between foreign and local law firms. However, the current stand of the law is that there can be no mergers, but FLAs , or Formal Law Alliances between foreign law practices (FLPs) and Singapore law practices (SLPs).
In Singapore, FLAs envision the existence of collaboration between SLPs and FLPs, with each retaining their distinct identity. The existence of an FLA between an FLP and SLP permits co-branding and billing, sharing of office premises, resources and client information, and allows constituent firms to share up to a third of profits from the apparent joint venture.
A Clifford Chance spokesperson told the media that the firm has “at all times fully complied with all applicable regulations and will continue to do so.”
Clifford Chance had formed an FLA with Singapore law firm Cavenagh Law in December 2012. At the time of creating the FLA, Clifford Chance had indicated that the arrangement would allow it to impart local litigation advice with Cavenagh Law.