Starting a Law Firm in Singapore

Staff Writer

January 5, 2022

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How to Open a Law Firm

The legal industry in Singapore plays an essential role in the success of the economy by ensuring the proper operation of other businesses under the right guidelines and requirements. Strong law practices and high quality legal services create a solid foundation and give foreign businesses the security and confidence to invest in the country. With the recent call for application under the Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licensing program from the Singapore’s Ministry of Law, the legal landscape will be liberalized in the next few years. This means there will be more great opportunities for foreign law firms to set up their branches or offices in Singapore and make use of many benefits from this economic centre.

Keep reading this guide to learn more about how to start a law firm in Singapore.

Overview of the legal industry in Singapore

In 2017, the legal industry of Singapore reached more than $2 billion, which made a contribution to around 0.5% of the country’ Gross Domestic Product. There were also more than 1000 firms that employed around 12,900 workers, half of them were lawyers.

In general, there are four main forms of legal practices in Singapore. These include Joint Law Ventures or JLVs, Qualifying Foreign Law Practices or QFLPs, Foreign Law Practices or FLPs, and Singapore Law Practices or SLPs.

  • SLP: SLP companies can offer law-related services in all areas of legal practices
  • FLP: FLP firms can offer law-related services just in relation to the International Commercial Court or in the limited context of the international commercial arbitration, via several forms of registered lawyers.
  • QFLP: This type of law firm can offer law-related services in a few permitted areas of foreign legal practices.
  • JLV: This type is quite similar to the QFLP but on a smaller scale.

The most common form in Singapore is SLP, followed by FLP, QFLP, and JLV.

Benefits of setting a law firm in Singapore

When it comes to legal academia, Singapore has long been known for having an impressive and comprehensive legal system. As a former British colony and Commonwealth country, it has many similarities with other common-law legal systems in the world. Also, it has been significantly exposed to civil law traditions as a result of the extensive interactions with these law systems through European traders and Asian neighbouring countries. The combination of the two major legal systems in the world allows for a good system in Singapore which helps facilitate the development of the economy.

Another benefit of setting up a law firm in this South-East Asian country is that it features a world-class education system, political stability, strong economy, and an extensive network of infrastructure. Thus, it can be a transparent and safe bet for any foreign law firm that wants to start operating and make a lot of profits here.

The number of highly trained and experienced lawyers in Singapore is another important advantage that makes the legal industry so competitive and promising. Indeed, the legal education in Singapore is among the best programs in the world with a variety of prestigious and well-known institutions which recruit world-class talents to enhance the legal capabilities.

How to set up a law firm in Singapore

Since the legal industry is a complicated and complex area in Singapore, it can be time-consuming and challenging to set up a law firm. The first thing you need to do is to submit the application to the Selection Committee and the Evaluation Committee for official acceptance. There are many important factors that the committee will take into account during the assessment. These include the track record of the foreign firm, the amount of handled work offshore, the area of legal services and law that the firm will practice, and the number of employees.

Once you have acquired the approval and license from the committee, you have up to six months to set up the operation and office in Singapore. Some necessary tasks that you need to complete include hiring staff, looking for the premise, marketing the business, getting visas for your legal lawyers and more. The legal license will be initially valid for 5 years. After this period, you have to renew the license from the Evaluation Committee. This process will be quicker than the initial registration and incorporation.

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