SINGAPORE: A new programme to help local law firms that wish to expand overseas was launched on Thursday (Feb 1) by the Ministry of Law, the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore.
Called Lawyers Go Global, the programme aims to help law firms expand their networks through overseas mission trips, training and branding.
Based on recommendations by the Committee on the Future Economy working group on legal and accounting services, it is part of efforts to “enhance Singapore’s position as an international legal hub” according to the law ministry.
“It’s really expanding the markets for the local legal services and venturing out to look for new markets and new work," said Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah. "When Singapore companies go overseas, what they’re really doing is they are expanding their market."
"They are looking for new places to sell goods, services, to do business. When you do it, it has to be supported by the legal documentation and in some cases the legal strategy or legal advice."
Demand for legal services in Asia is growing, according to the Ministry of Law.
“Singapore is an international hub for legal services. Many multi-national corporations are based here and use Singapore lawyers for their regional transactions," said the ministry. "Legal work in Asia is also expected to grow in areas such as infrastructure and arising out of China’s Belt and Road initiative as legal services (are) driven by economic activities."
OVERSEAS TRIPS AND TRAINING
As part of the programme, over the next three years there will be eight mission trips to bring Singapore lawyers to fast-growing regional countries including China, India and Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries.
Up to 35 lawyers will be involved in each trip, with each trip expected to last about four to five days. The lawyers will get to learn about the legal needs and business opportunities in these countries and network with local businesses and the legal community there.
There will also be workshops organised to equip Singapore lawyers with skills relevant to venturing overseas as part of the new programme.
This includes training on the legal regimes, business and cultural norms of overseas markets as well as networking skills and branding strategies for law firms.
“Local firms have been internationalising, but the efforts have been pretty ad hoc and very much driven by solo efforts or, for instance, where large firms in particular had resources," said Gregory Vijayendran, LawSoc's president. "They were able to go in alone and explore new markets."
"What is different this time around is this is a strategic and concerted effort on the part of (the) Ministry of Law, IE Singapore and Law Society of Singapore so it’s a tripartite collaboration. It helps us very much in terms of funding."
One law firm that intends to expand abroad plans to tap on the programme, as it saves them from doing some legwork.
“It’s always a good thing to have somebody holding your hands when you go into a new territory - for somebody who has already done a lot of the groundwork for you, getting together networking sessions and all that so that you don’t have to go there blind and meet people individually which can be quite inefficient timewise," said Sunil Sudheesan, director, Quahe Woo and Palmer LLC.
“With everybody clumped together and with meetings set up well in advance with especially interested people, it makes for a more effective platform in building collaboration."
Lawyers Go Global will be funded by IE Singapore under its Local Enterprise and Association Development (LEAD) programme.
Those keen to participate can apply through LawSoc. The programme is based on a first come, first served basis.