Singapore-based foreign lawyers have welcomed a policy shift that will alllow non-locally qualified attorneys to practice commercial areas of Singapore law.
The introduction of a new Foreign Practitioner Certificate (FPC), passed through a bill amendment in parliament last month, ushers in the next phase of legal market liberalisation.
Where foreign lawyers previously could not qualify to sit for the Bar – unless a graduate from the Attorney General's list of stipulated universities – the changes will allow those formerly excluded to sign off on Singapore work; by passing the Foreign Practitioner’s Examinations (FPE).
According to Allen & Overy Singapore partner Hooman Sabeti, a number of US-qualified lawyers working at the magic circle firm have expressed interest in pursuing certification. Sabeti also believes interest to be similarly high at other international players in the Lion City.
““Part of the rationale of setting up the QFLP system was to offer the range of transactional advice people needed in one office. We do have lawyers here who spend a fair bit of time working on deals that are Singapore law governed; and because clients want the flexibility to have their individual lawyers handling all their matters - whether it be US, English or Singapore law-related, it makes sense for us to get certified,” he said. "The process of liberalisation in Singapore is going in a good direction.”
The FPE will be run by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education – which will itself be launched before the end of 2011. The institute will be headed by former Attorney-General Walter Woon.
In addition to changes to foreign qualification, other changes to the Legal Professions (Amendment) Bill include reducing the minimum period for trainees to be part-called to the Bar, from four months to three.
Once part-called, trainees can now appear in court for all types of hearings, which were previously limited.