The new secondment regime
would allow foreign and local firms
to exchange lawyers. But though a
Chinese lawyer seconded to a foreign
firm would still be able to provide a
legal opinion, the lawyer would be
required to do so under the Chinese
firm’s name. Moreover, Wan thinks
most foreign firms would prefer Chinese legal opinions to be drafted by
senior partners, who are unlikely to
“How much do you trust [the
secondee]’s legal opinion?” he asks.
Another Shanghai partner with a
U.S. firm agrees that a secondment
regime would not be very attractive,
compared to just seeking out individual Chinese lawyers when needed. “It’s
an interesting idea, but at this point, it
is not clear how much value [second-ment] would add to the Chinese and
international firms,” he says.
Likewise, this lawyer doesn’t think
there will be much interest in joint
ventures. Firms are already allowed to
have strategic alliances, but not many
have pursued them, he says, because
international firms prefer to work with
several different Chinese firms.
Chinese firms, on the other hand,
seem more eager to take advantage of
the FTZ’s opportunities for cooperation.
Shanghai’s Co-effort Law Firm, which
has more than 200 lawyers, has already
opened an office there. You Minjian,
Singapore’s government has long sought to enhance the island nation’s status as a hub for the
global financial and legal services industries. But that goal is potentially
coming into conflict with populist sentiment against increased immigration
by foreign workers.
Though foreign lawyers and firms
have so far not been specifically tar-
geted, a number who have lived and
worked in Singapore for years say they
are worried the profession will eventu-
ally be affected by more general mea-
sures being implemented in response
to the public outcry.
It’s believed that immigration
politics may have been a factor in the
government’s recent tough stance on
renewal of Qualifying Foreign Law
Practice (QFLP) licenses, which allow
designated foreign firms to practice lo-
cal law in certain areas. In exchange,
those firms agreed to recruitment and
revenue targets for their Singapore
offices, targets that some apparently
failed to meet.
A rising anti-immigrant tide in Singapore is putting international law firms on edge.
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