Singapore, once a British colony, is today one of the richest countries on earth which the World Bank describes as one of the easiest places in which to do business.
Now the Government are turning their sights on the global legal industry, and are extending a welcome to big foreign firms looking to locate into the region.
In order to operate in the country, law firms must be licensed as a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice or QFLP.
This scheme was set up in 2008 and initially licensed six firms; today there are 110 international firms operating in the country.
The next round of QFLP licences is up for grabs in late 2012 and speculation is mounting as to which firms will be applying.
UK 'magic-circle' firms Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy were in the first tranche of licences back in 2008. It is widely anticipated that at least one other magic-circle firm may follow suit this time, with Linklaters tipped ahead of Slaughter & May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Singapore's law minister is K Shanmugam.
"We want to make sure of the quality, we are looking for firms that can add value and bring new work from overseas into Singapore and add a significant premium to our legal scene," he said.
Foreign firms can get around the requirement for a QFLP licence if they are willing to partner with a local legal firm. This has been the preferred route for many, including US giant Baker & McKenzie.
Law firms can still locate in Singapore without a joint venture or the QFLP licence but they cannot practice local law.
One of the firms looking to apply this time around is Watson Farley & Williams. Chris Lowe is a partner in their Singapore office.
"A joint law venture and/or a QFLP are important, even if advising on Singapore law is not a firm's main line of business," he told The Lawyer.
"Although we already have a joint law venture arrangement, a QFLP layered on top should enable us to provide a greater number of our lawyers as a Singapore law legal resource," he said.
The Singapore Government will be accepting applications from July 1st 2012, and the deadline is August 31st, with announcements expected by the end of the year.
Singapore to allow more foreign law firms (The Telegraph)