The Legal 500

Singapore

Singapore > Legal market overview

Editorial

Singapore’s reputation as a major seat for international arbitration is well established. Increasingly popular among Korean clients, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) remains an attractive venue for Singaporean, Indian and South East Asian parties in particular. Looking to further cement itself as a venue for dispute resolution, the government has proposed to establish two new centres: the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) and the Singapore International Mediation Court (SIMC). The intention is that Singapore will provide a full range of forums for the resolution of cross-border disputes.

For transactional work, Singapore continues to be an important hub for the region; its ongoing popularity, however, is a double-edged sword. New entrants in the local market are sparking concerns among some of the more established firms about sustainability, with the ever-increasing competition bringing fee considerations to the fore.

On the flip side, a number of local firms are looking beyond the domestic legal market, establishing country desks from Singapore or launching offices elsewhere in South East Asia. Rajah & Tann LLP, one of the ‘big four’ law firms in Singapore, is particularly active in regional expansion.

Allen & Gledhill LLP, WongPartnership LLP and Drew & Napier LLC (the remaining three of the ‘big four’) held their dominant positions in the domestic legal market, although other local firms are notable for their size, history and expertise: Rodyk & Davidson LLP, Shook Lin & Bok LLP, TSMP Law Corporation and Stamford Law are all key players.

On the international firm front, 2013 saw the arrival of Simmons & Simmons and the return of Morrison & Foerster. Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has made significant strides since its 2012 relaunch, thanks in part to its large regional client base and well-established Hong Kong office.

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Legal Developments in Singapore

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  • RESOLVING INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES IN SINGAPORE – 101

    Singapore has been a trade bridge between the East and the West for close to 200 hundred years. It has one of the busiest ports and one of the best airports underlying its fantastic transportation links. For one of the most densely populated places on earth, the traffic flows smoothly, people get to places reliably on the metro network and there is a large number of taxis that gets you anywhere you need to be in about 10 minutes, or 20 if getting to or from the airport.
  • Competition Law Quarterly Update Q1/2015

    In this bumper issue, the Drew & Napier Competition & Regulatory Practice Group brings you the most notable events in the competition law world in the second half of 2014.
  • Corruption Updates – Lessons and Warnings from 2014

    2014 has been an active year for the prosecution of corruption cases.
  • Abolition of the Financial Assistance Prohibition for Private Companies

    The Companies (Amendment) Bill No. 25 of 2014 ( Amendment Bill ) was passed by the Singapore Parliament on 8 October 2014. The Amendment Bill introduces the largest overhaul of the Singapore Companies Act (Cap. 50) ( Companies Act ) since it was enacted in 1967.
  • Singapore International Commercial Court: a New Brand of Litigation?

    Singapore’s new International Commercial Court ( SICC ), which was launched at the beginning of the legal year, promises to offer a bold new method of resolving commercial disputes in South-East Asia and beyond. The establishment of the Court recognises that large, complex, commercial matters can be most effectively resolved by a bench of specialist judges according to bespoke procedures. This much is not new. Commercial courts have grown up around the world to meet the need for businesses to resolve disputes fairly and efficiently. This need has intensified as trade and commerce has grown increasingly international and parties have found themselves litigating in different quarters of the world. The launch of the SICC can be seen in that context as a response to the need for a dedicated commercial litigation forum in the region. But the ambitions for SICC are arguably higher than that. Informed by the current landscape for resolving commercial disputes, the Court ventures into unchartered waters in at least two respects. First, it offers parties a flexibility in procedure that is influenced by practices seen in international arbitration. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, the Court may cause the development of a jurisprudence that consolidates and harmonises the region’s commercial laws: a lex mercatoria for Asia.
  • Who Bears the Burden of an Intermediary’s Corruption?

    The criminal sanctions for bribery and corruption are well known. So too is the fact that a principal may be liable for the payment of a bribe by one of its agents. What then happens when the bribe is paid by an intermediary who may have been acting for both parties? Further, what are the civil consequences of an intermediary’s bribe to close a deal?
  • Boosting Market Participation Among Retail Investors: Reduction of Board Lot Size

    The Singapore Exchange Limited ( SGX ) will reduce the standard board lot size of securities listed on SGX from 1,000 units currently to 100 units from 19 January 2015.
  • Squabbling Ex-spouses Make Good Corporate Law (Again)

    A trend is emerging that business lawyers need to read family law reports to discern new legal principles [1] . This is perhaps not surprising as wealthy individuals hold their personal wealth through corporate entities. In Singapore, such a scenario gave rise to the need for the High Court to consider whether the shareholders of a company may resolve to manage the company when the directors are unable to act. In a learned and closely reasoned judgment, giving full weight to the variance under 
  • Alibaba’s VIE Structure: Does It Have a Place in Singapore?

    All eyes were on Alibaba in its $22 billion initial public offering ( IPO ) on 19 September 2014, the largest ever in US history. Investors were so eager to add the Chinese e-commerce giant to their portfolios that the shares rocketed 38% on its debut and Alibaba closed with a valuation of $231 billion on the first day, more than the market value of Amazon and E-Bay combined. However, investors were not really investing in Alibaba – they were investing in Jack Ma. As the founder himself observed in front of cameras at the New York Stock Exchange: “Today, what we’ve got is not money. What we’ve got is trust from the people.”
  • Another Look at the “Pre-Option Contract”

    Both parties in last year’s High Court case of Chew Ai Hua, Sandra v Woo Kah Wai and another (Chesney Real Estate Pte Ltd, third party) [2013] 3 SLR 1088 ( Chew Ai Hua’s case ) appealed against the judgment of the court. The Court of Appeal’s decision is an important reminder of the risks associated with so-called “pre-option contracts” in real estate transactions.

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