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  #1131 (permalink)  
Old 24-09-2016, 01:53 AM
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My two cents on the Singapore Legal Sector (I speak only on the non-contentious side of things). It is not surprising to see Singapore firms doing Singapore work struggle to achieve further growth. There are several reasons for this.

First, the size of the domestic legal market is usually a function of the size of the domestic economy, unless the jurisdiction's laws are used in international work (for e.g., the law of England and Wales, and to a smaller extent NY law). This is because a country's law firms are usually licensed to only advise on that country's rules. Therefore, it isn't surprising that there is limited room for Singapore corporate practices to grow: (i) Singapore law isn't commonly used in transactions not involving Singapore incorporated or listed entities; (ii) Singapore companies aren't exactly growing into world beaters doing lots of outbound acquisitions or investments (unlike say American companies); (iii) Singapore capital markets aren't exactly the leading lights in Asia. Even when Singapore firms do work involving cross border issues, check and you will see that Singapore listed or incorporated entities are involved. Compare this to English and Wall Street firms. Their laws are used widely outside of their jurisdictions in transactional work. Thus, to the extent permitted by local laws, these firms set up shop in most major financial and commercial centres to advise on foreign law issues (i.e. NY or English law).

Second, law firms are valued (in addition to their advice in the law) for their ability to manage and coordinate a transaction. That is why an English firm's Singapore office may run a banking syndication deal in relation to financing for an Indonesian company, even if some key parts of the documentation is drafted under Indonesian law. They can simply instruct an Indonesian firm to advise on those specific parts. The rest of the transaction is coordinated by the English firm out of their Singapore office. We see this again when international law firms from Wall Street instruct top tier Singapore firms for Singapore law related work. For instance, famous fund A's international counsel (top Wall Street firm B) will instruct Singapore firm C on the proposed buyout by famous fund A of a Singapore incorporated entity. The Singapore firm, while vital to the transaction, remains managed by the fund's Wall Street international counsel. Unless Singapore firms become such world beating law firms recognised by international funds and companies as the trusted quarterback of a deal, instructing ASEAN firms to do ASEAN related work, it is difficult to see their corporate practice grow even bigger. That is not to say that the Singapore firms aren't capable of doing so because there are many top practitioners out there. Many times, whether a firm becomes such a valued advisor is simply a function of the size of their countries' companies. You do see big Singapore funds (think really big) engaging top Singapore firms to manage their outbound investments in other countries. The difficulty in further growth may simply a reflection of the reality that there aren't many homegrown Singaporean companies active in buying up stuff abroad.

Third, Singapore firms have expanded tremendously in the past 2 decades and it really begs the question of whether any future growth (or even maintenance at the current size) makes financial sense. This is given that there aren't likely to be huge streams of revenue coming in for transactional or advisory work. Do a Porters' 5 Forces analysis and you can see why fees may continue to come down. Law firms typically have profit margins of anywhere from 30+% to 40+%. To continue the current size and headcount, the firms really need a sizeable amount of revenue to keep historical profit margins.

Some cite Hong Kong as an example of a huge domestic legal market with a pretty insignificant domestic economy. But Hong Kong has a huge legal market because of (i) its proximity to the Chinese market; (ii) liberalised legal market; (iii) huge capital markets scene; and (iv) because of the previous reasons, huge presence of institutional investors and funds. Do a quick Google search and you will see international firms there practising HK law. Add that to many big Chinese companies being incorporated or listed in Hong Kong and an active buyer scene in Hong Kong. You get a booming corporate market. Singapore is unlikely to become like Hong Kong. Even if ASEAN booms, will Philippines, Thai, Vietnamese or Indonesian continue to list in Singapore? Even if Singapore firms don't grow, will international firms continue to stay here? Does it not make sense to move to Jakarta if Indonesia fully liberalises its legal market?

That said, I do expect banking and finance work to be popular in Singapore for the near future. Banks are still sited here, and funds are still being dispensed from this city. Corporate and capital markets work, however, appear to be a pie that is unlikely to become any much bigger.
This is almost 100% spot on. You pretty much spilled the contents of my mind on this subject onto the keyboard.

I do however have differing views on some points. I personally am from B&F, and I see the same challenges you highlighted in relation to Corporate work. B&F syndicated loans operate in the same transnational environment you described above, typically involving a facility agent coordinating the loan commitments of various lending banks. Which governing law do you figure these guys pick? No prizes for guessing.

We do get some tiny syndicated loans governed by SG law - those run by SG facility agent banks, and even those are drying up. Even those which are left are slowly migrating over to English law, which is globally understood and accepted. That way, should the time ever come for the Original Lenders to sell down their loans in secondary debt trades, the loans are more tradeable and marketable than those governed by the Singapore law, which sadly and oddly still remains a black box to many of the world's largest corporations.

Fewer and fewer syndicated deals are being run under Singapore law, which means that B&F work for SG Big4s is drying up, since whilst they certainly have the expertise to run the process as transaction counsel, they cannot advise on English law, which forms the cornerstone of the transaction. As a matter of custom, the selection of transaction counsel typically hinges on the governing law of the loan agreement - and in the majority of such loans, that would be English law. Whilst the B&F scene in Singapore remains strong, that stream of work is going to international firms which can advise on English law. And hell, the QFLPs can advise on Singapore law as well, so why bother with the SG Big4 at all?

The liberalization of our legal market pretty much set the stage for the destruction of the SG Big4. The QFLP scheme was a curse to the Big4. Nice of Shan to allow the world free access to an already tiny and shrinking pie.

Grim...



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  #1132 (permalink)  
Old 24-09-2016, 12:05 PM
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Wow wonderful insights. That's the beauty of having lawyers in a forum, not being grammar nazis and flaunting technical business modelling, or sharing exam tips -.- ( anyway i cooroborate on the statement that Nus Law Deanery did send out a email to all students 2/3 years ago warning that taking stuffs for muggers notes wholesale is plagarism according to their understanding of the rules.)

I digressed.

The prospects of the law firms here and the industry as a whole has immense impact on the remuneration of lawyers here. I also get a general sense that the corporate side of SG Big4 on the losing end of things. My prediction is that unless something changes they will start to downsize, shedding most from the corp side to a stable size around 180.

One of the interesting approach is to go regional from SG. Anyone has any comments on the go regional approach to save the Big4? I think the clearest example here is R&T. The rest of the big4 seems to be doing the regional expansion stuffs half heartedly or without a clear strategy . Will this work?

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  #1133 (permalink)  
Old 24-09-2016, 07:20 PM
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Wow wonderful insights. That's the beauty of having lawyers in a forum, not being grammar nazis and flaunting technical business modelling, or sharing exam tips -.- ( anyway i cooroborate on the statement that Nus Law Deanery did send out a email to all students 2/3 years ago warning that taking stuffs for muggers notes wholesale is plagarism according to their understanding of the rules.)

I digressed.

The prospects of the law firms here and the industry as a whole has immense impact on the remuneration of lawyers here. I also get a general sense that the corporate side of SG Big4 on the losing end of things. My prediction is that unless something changes they will start to downsize, shedding most from the corp side to a stable size around 180.

One of the interesting approach is to go regional from SG. Anyone has any comments on the go regional approach to save the Big4? I think the clearest example here is R&T. The rest of the big4 seems to be doing the regional expansion stuffs half heartedly or without a clear strategy . Will this work?
It's an interesting question. If you ask me, the above scenario is rather like RISK. You may be the tiniest player in the game, holding just the tiniest little continent of Australia at the bottom-most corner of the map. You'll never be able to break out and take over the largest continents like Asia and North America, but if you steadfastly defend your single front, you can make strong internal gains until you max out your troops on each square. Invaders would have a hell of a time trying to break into your market.

But if someone with a larger continent manages to break through and land a foothold in your smaller continent, you'll face an uphill battle for survival while he continues to make gains in his hinterland, from which he can deploy resources for use in the invasion against you.

I'm sure those in practice can see the parallels without me spelling it out expressly.

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  #1134 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 12:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
Wow wonderful insights. That's the beauty of having lawyers in a forum, not being grammar nazis and flaunting technical business modelling, or sharing exam tips -.- ( anyway i cooroborate on the statement that Nus Law Deanery did send out a email to all students 2/3 years ago warning that taking stuffs for muggers notes wholesale is plagarism according to their understanding of the rules.)

I digressed.

The prospects of the law firms here and the industry as a whole has immense impact on the remuneration of lawyers here. I also get a general sense that the corporate side of SG Big4 on the losing end of things. My prediction is that unless something changes they will start to downsize, shedding most from the corp side to a stable size around 180.

One of the interesting approach is to go regional from SG. Anyone has any comments on the go regional approach to save the Big4? I think the clearest example here is R&T. The rest of the big4 seems to be doing the regional expansion stuffs half heartedly or without a clear strategy . Will this work?
You can't corroborate a statement you've made. Corroboration is something you perform on a statement made by someone else. From the atrocious grammar and spelling, its crystal clear that you're the same poster who made the lame comment about plagiarism.
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  #1135 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 01:15 AM
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This is almost 100% spot on. You pretty much spilled the contents of my mind on this subject onto the keyboard.

I do however have differing views on some points. I personally am from B&F, and I see the same challenges you highlighted in relation to Corporate work. B&F syndicated loans operate in the same transnational environment you described above, typically involving a facility agent coordinating the loan commitments of various lending banks. Which governing law do you figure these guys pick? No prizes for guessing.

We do get some tiny syndicated loans governed by SG law - those run by SG facility agent banks, and even those are drying up. Even those which are left are slowly migrating over to English law, which is globally understood and accepted. That way, should the time ever come for the Original Lenders to sell down their loans in secondary debt trades, the loans are more tradeable and marketable than those governed by the Singapore law, which sadly and oddly still remains a black box to many of the world's largest corporations.

Fewer and fewer syndicated deals are being run under Singapore law, which means that B&F work for SG Big4s is drying up, since whilst they certainly have the expertise to run the process as transaction counsel, they cannot advise on English law, which forms the cornerstone of the transaction. As a matter of custom, the selection of transaction counsel typically hinges on the governing law of the loan agreement - and in the majority of such loans, that would be English law. Whilst the B&F scene in Singapore remains strong, that stream of work is going to international firms which can advise on English law. And hell, the QFLPs can advise on Singapore law as well, so why bother with the SG Big4 at all?

The liberalization of our legal market pretty much set the stage for the destruction of the SG Big4. The QFLP scheme was a curse to the Big4. Nice of Shan to allow the world free access to an already tiny and shrinking pie.

Grim...
Would you say that it's a good choice for me to qualify in the UK before coming back to Singapore, given that I have no intention of practising in the UK? Also, I am very concerned about the state of transactional work in Singapore - it seems quite grim. If the QFLPs were to poach associates from local Big4s, which type of skill set would be in demand? Finally, if I want exit options (e.g. in-house), would you say that a more general corporate experience at a mid-tier firm would be better than a more technical experience at a Big4?
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  #1136 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 01:35 PM
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You can't corroborate a statement you've made. Corroboration is something you perform on a statement made by someone else. From the atrocious grammar and spelling, its crystal clear that you're the same poster who made the lame comment about plagiarism.
Legal fraternity can do without one less idiot like you who don't get the big picture and purpose of this forum.
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  #1137 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 01:48 PM
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Legal fraternity can do without one less idiot like you who don't get the big picture and purpose of this forum.
How did you become a lawyer when you can't even master basic grammar? I'm disgusted that you can't produce even one error-free sentence. You start a sentence forgetting "the", you use double negatives, effectively reversing the intended meaning of your sentence and you used "don't" instead of "doesn't". Three errors in a single, simple sentence. That's amazingly bad for a lawyer.

I'm quite done here. Reading your error-ridden drivel is giving me indigestion.


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  #1138 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 02:05 PM
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How did you become a lawyer when you can't even master basic grammar? I'm disgusted that you can't produce even one error-free sentence. You start a sentence forgetting "the", you use double negatives, effectively reversing the intended meaning of your sentence and you used "don't" instead of "doesn't". Three errors in a single, simple sentence. That's amazingly bad for a lawyer.

I'm quite done here. Reading your error-ridden drivel is giving me indigestion.
Good. Please leave. Let the rest of us get back to our productive discussion.
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  #1139 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 06:46 PM
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Would you say that it's a good choice for me to qualify in the UK before coming back to Singapore, given that I have no intention of practising in the UK? Also, I am very concerned about the state of transactional work in Singapore - it seems quite grim. If the QFLPs were to poach associates from local Big4s, which type of skill set would be in demand? Finally, if I want exit options (e.g. in-house), would you say that a more general corporate experience at a mid-tier firm would be better than a more technical experience at a Big4?
The UK training contract situation is even worst than in Singapore - i think the ratio is about 20 to 30% of seats to applicants.

There is no easy route. QFLP generally recruit from the big 4. They generally prize 1. competence and 2. good client facing skills, and not necessarily in that order.

For exit options: opportunities will come up wherever you go. Up to you to take them. BIg 4 gets you name recognition and a presumption of competence. Smaller firms, you have more opportunities to get face time with clients, build you personal skills instead of hiding behind your superiors.
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  #1140 (permalink)  
Old 25-09-2016, 10:35 PM
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Do the Big 4 recruit Associates who qualified via the SLS route, such as CCS/ACRA/IPOS/IRAS/MAS?
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