Chambers swarm in to Singapore

Stone Chambers takes advantage of Singapore’s growing reputation as a hub for commercial dispute resolution

Stone Chambers has become the latest UK barristers’ chambers to open an office in Singapore and is the first to have a silk based there permanently, with Andrew Moran QC relocating from London to spearhead the new outpost.

The set said in a statement: “This move reflects Singapore’s growing reputation as a hub for commercial dispute resolution for the Asia-Pacific region.”

The growing interest in Singapore is a result of steps to liberalise the Singaporean legal profession. Last year, Singapore’s parliament passed amendments to its Legal Profession Act to make it easier for English QCs to appear in the domestic courts.Indeed, Singapore is an attractive proposition for sets looking for instructions from the international market. Essex Court Chambers and 20 Essex Street were the first to open in the region, in June 2009. They were followed last year by One Essex Court and 39 Essex Street.

Following the regulatory changes, Essex Court Chambers’ Toby Landau QC and David Joseph QC were admitted to advocate before the Singaporean High Court in a mammoth $300m (£187.36m)legal battle for Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan and Indonesian conglomerate Lippo Group. In September, Blackstone Chambers’ Michael Beloff QC was admitted to represent nTan Corporate Advisory in legal proceedings in the city-state.

Although the market is liberalising, parties intending to instruct English QCs to argue cases in the Singaporean courts still need to obtain approval from the Singapore High Court for the ad hoc admission. While some cases have been given the green light, several have also been rejected. Most recently, the court denied an application to instruct former attorney-general Peter Goldsmith QC to challenge anti-gay legislation in Singapore.

Arbitration in Singapore is another growing area for international firms and UK sets. The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (Siac) handled 235 new cases in 2012, a 25 per cent hike on the previous year, while the total sums in dispute for the same year reached a record S$3.6bn (£2bn).

According to a Siac report, parties from 39 jurisdictions were involved in cases at Siac in 2012, with mainland Chinese, Indian, Indonesian and US parties the most frequent users.

International practices have been benefiting from Singapore’s rise as a world-class arbitration seat. For example, Hogan Lovells’ Singapore arbitration team has grown, as the value of international arbitrations it worked on in 2012 was more than $4bn.

For lawyers who are focused on international arbitration, Singapore is a jurisdiction not to
be overlooked.