Jessica Seah reports in an article entitled Singapore to Allow Domestic-Foreign Law Firm Mergers which appeared on February 15, 2012 in The Asian Lawyer that Singapore’s Parliament has approved legislative changes that would clear the way for mergers between international and domestic firms.  As Rose Orlick reports in a February 24, 2012 article entitled Singapore relaxes ban on foreign ownership of law firms as market opens up: ”The overhaul comes at a time when growing numbers of international firms have been targeting Singapore as a gateway to Southeast Asia.”

Seah further reported that  “The law ministry said in an email it had reacted to the wishes of local firms. “‘The international legal services market is now an intensely competitive one,” the ministry said. “We have taken the view that local firms which wish to embrace this new environment ought not to be unduly constrained in their business model and strategy. The new flexibility will allow them to compete in this global legal services market through closer collaboration and tie-ups with foreign partners.’”

“Singaporean firm Allen & Gledhill confirmed last November that it was in merger discussions with British Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy.  At that time, several prominent Singaporean lawyers expressed support for the possible tie-up and said more such deals were likely on the way”, reported Seah.

How can your law firm benefit from Singapore’s legal market liberalization?

I wrote in a recent blogpost about how law firms might benefit from the new liberalization of the Korean legal market, and these principles certainly apply to the Singapore legal market as well.  What is important to note is that the liberalization of the Singapore legal market will not just benefit Am Law 100 or British Magic Circle law firms.

For examplefor foreign firms not planning to establish a practice in Singapore, this is an excellent opportunity to either: Establish a productive referral relationship with a domestic Singapore law firm or establish a representative sales offices in Singapore.

If you are a domestic Singapore law firm, this is an excellent opportunity for you to tap into the heightened interest in the Singapore market by establishing revenue-generation focused referral relationships with foreign law firms from multiple jurisdictions.

Opportunity awaits

Broadly speaking, the liberalization of the Singapore legal market highlights the ever-increasing internationalization of the legal market, as the Singapore Law Ministry (as reported by Jessica Seah)  cited as its’ reason for initiating this market liberalization.  Legal services providers, including law firms, have more opportunity to gain market share from overseas markets using a variety of creative methods than ever before.

Properly conducted, an effort to gain market share from a foreign market by an overseas law firm can be highly lucrative.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal. An independent writer & editor, he's the author of: A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets (Ark Group 2014).

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