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    Mar 03, 2014

    Herbert Smith Freehills not renewing QFLP licence

    HERBERT Smith Freehills, one of the world's top international law firms, has decided to give up its Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licence when it expires this year, becoming the first foreign law firm here to do so.

    Four other foreign law firms which were awarded the QFLP licences in 2008, when the scheme was introduced, will have their licences extended for five years, said the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) on Friday. The firms are Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Latham & Watkins and Norton Rose Fulbright.

    Another firm that was awarded the licence in 2008, White & Case, has been given a one-year conditional licence, which could be extended by four years if the firm meets "certain quantitative targets" set by MinLaw.

    The ministry did not elaborate.

    The QFLP licensing scheme allows foreign law firms granted such a licence to practise Singapore law in "permitted areas of legal practice", mainly in commercial areas of law.

    They are barred from areas such as constitutional and administrative law, conveyancing, criminal law, family law, succession law and conduct of litigation.

    Without the licence, Herbert Smith Freehills will cease practice as a QFLP.

    The firm's South-east Asia managing partner, Mr Michael Walter, said the firm has other strategic initiatives in mind, even though it remains strongly committed to Singapore after 25 years here.

    "Our practice in Singapore is primarily international, working with our clients on significant cross-border matters.

    "We do not believe that operating under our own licence is the only way to service our clients' Singapore law requirements."

    However, MinLaw will give the firm a six-month extension of its licence beyond April 30, the expiry date, so the firm has until Oct 31 to make a smooth transition out of the QFLP scheme.

    Mr Walter said that, after October, the firm "will have new arrangements in place to support our ambitions and those of our clients in Singapore and the wider region".

    Latham & Watkins' chair and managing partner, Mr Robert Dell, said of the renewal of the firm's QFLP status here: "Singapore is a great success story, and it has shown both extraordinary vision and resourcefulness to strengthen its role as one of the leading financial and legal centres of the world.

    "Singapore is an economic powerhouse and it is a major regional business and legal hub. It remains a strategically important market for our growth plans in the region and globally."

    MinLaw said that, in determining whether a foreign firm's licence is renewed, it takes into account the firm's quantitative and qualitative performance in the preceding five years.

    It also considers the firm's renewal proposals for the next five years in terms of the value of work the firm's Singapore office will generate, the number of lawyers based in the firm's Singapore office, the strength of the practice areas of its Singapore office and the extent to which the office will function as the firm's headquarters for the region.

    Herbert Smith, a member of the Silver Circle of leading law firms in Britain, merged with Freehills, one of the Big Six law firms in Australia, in October 2012.