In September, the Singapore government issued a statement on the appointment of a committee to review Singapore's strategic legal needs in the financial sector and the conditions under which foreign law firms and foreign lawyers are permitted to operate in Singapore in the context of ensuring Singapore's competitiveness in financial services. The committee is headed by the Attorney-General and consists of a judge, a government official, senior partners of local and foreign law firms and senior officials of local and foreign banks operating in Singapore.
Since the announcement, the committee has distributed questionaires to some 90 foreign and local law firms and financial institutions. The questions related to the legal needs of respondents and whether they were being met, and sought their views on whether liberalizing legal services would boost Singapore as a regional financial sector and whether they thought Singapore law could eventually become a real alternative to New York or English law as a governing law for financial transactions.
Foreign law firms and foreign lawyers are at present barred from practising Singapore law. It is now widely thought to be only a matter of time before this rule is relaxed. It would appear that any relaxation will centre on legal services for the financial sector and may not affect the provision of other legal services.
The Law Society of Singapore has formed a sub-committee to address the issues raised and plans to submit a report to the committee in October. The council of the Law Society is democratically elected by members of the local bar.