Singapore continues to set itself apart as an ideal destination for legal work, for both providers and consumers.
It’s similar enough to Australia that Aussie lawyers won’t feel out of their depth, while offering different opportunities and an expat lifestyle like no other.
“Similarities-wise I think they’re both very globally focused and I think the common law element makes things a lot easier, and [there are] no difficulties for coming over as an Australian lawyer,” Major, Lindsey & Africa consultant Nathan Peart says.
“Differences [are], I think, the practices tend to be far more regional and so your mix of work is interesting but very, very different.”
Peter Chow, Squire Patton Boggs’ Asia-Pacific head of international dispute resolution/arbitration, has similar thoughts to Mr Peart.
“The laws in Australia and Singapore are quite similar, particularly in contract law or corporation law,” he says.
“Like Australia, there are lawyers in Singapore servicing domestic retail sectors such as conveyancing, criminal work and matrimonial matters. But in certain sectors such as major projects and infrastructure, Australia has a more mature practice.”
Prospects at large
Singapore has enjoyed a vibrant economy for many years, which in turn drives its demand for lawyers.
However, the current economic downturn, coupled with an increasing number of lawyers moving to Singapore recently, has thinned out the job opportunities, according to Mr Chow.
“But there is always room for lawyers of exceptional quality or relevant expertise,” he notes.
“Those with an entrepreneurial spirit and who are able to adapt to a changing market tend to do better.”
A good network also helps, especially for lawyers arriving from overseas, Mr Chow adds.
“Australian lawyers, particularly those who have gained experience in top-tier Australian firms, generally have a good reputation and are known for their high-quality work,” he says.
“They usually are able to find positions outside Australia, such as [in] Singapore. Many leading lawyers in international law firms around the world originally came from Australia.”
The managing partner of Clifford Chance’s Singapore office, Kai-Niklas Schneider, says the practice areas and clients serviced in Singapore are diverse.
“Our Singapore office covers a breadth of practices including banking and finance, corporate, capital markets and dispute resolution, and the office provides integrated services across the south-east Asia region,” he says.
“We act for a number of Singapore-based local and international companies, as well as regional and global clients based elsewhere.”
Mr Schneider says Singapore not only one of the world’s major financial capitals, it is also a global technology hub leading in areas such as fintech.
“It will continue to increase its stature as a global legal hub, with more clients viewing it as an increasingly important venue for them to be based or to transact business,” he says.
“This is driving our clients’ need for high-quality advice that covers English, New York and Singapore law.”
The areas of law in which Singaporean firms look to hire Australian lawyers can vary, but they are limited, according to Mr Peart.