Singapore humiliation as 19 firms refused right to practise
22 February 2013
19 firms including Olswang
and DLA Piper
have all had their applications rejected for a licence to practise local law in Singapore. Four firms (Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Jones Day
, Sidley Austin and Linklaters
) were successful.
A qualifying foreign law practice licence (QFLP) enables foreign firms to work in certain areas of Singapore law. Without it they're reduced to partnering with local outfits, or they have to avoid Singapore law altogether. Which isn't ideal when they've all moved there for the megayuan they hope China will push through the country. But after dutifully trooping into the exam hall, clearing their calculator memories and filling in the form, the vast majority of applicants have been handed a big fat F.
A Singapore partner wishing he'd revised harder yesterday
The Singapore Ministry of Law has defended its decision, saying it looked at a number of factors to assess whether a firm
deserved a QFLP licence, including the value of work the firm would generate and the
number of lawyers it would send to the island. Apparently almost everyone came up short.
Olswang's Singapore managing partner told RollOnFriday he was "not surprised...in the context of an award of only four licences
". Which is one way to look at it. Ashurst said it was "disappointed
", adding ruefully "we felt that our application was strong
". Bless. It has vowed to try again, as has DLA. But it may be a case of once bitten twice shy for BLP, which says it is "too soon
" to confirm whether it will put itself through the mill again.
Singapore is a cruel mistress. Public humiliation of lawyers is clearly in vogue, as firms rejected from a Russian bank's panel discovered recently.