Changes to regulatory regime for law firms and lawyers

The Law Ministry announced on Monday two key changes to the way law firms and lawyers in Singapore will be regulated. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOYCE FANG
The Law Ministry announced on Monday two key changes to the way law firms and lawyers in Singapore will be regulated. -- ST FILE PHOTO: JOYCE FANG

The Law Ministry announced on Monday two key changes to the way law firms and lawyers in Singapore will be regulated.

A new body, the Legal Services Regulatory Authority, will be set up under the ministry to regulate licensing and business criteria of all law practices. It will have powers to investigate and sanction law firms in the event of a breach.

A common set of professional conduct rules will apply to all practising lawyers here, whether they are called to the Singapore Bar or foreign-qualified.

Singapore-qualified lawyers and foreign-qualified lawyers are currently subject to different disciplinary processes.

As of June last year, there were 1,054 foreign-qualified lawyers practising here, making up 20 per cent of Singapore's total lawyer population.

These changes were the key recommendations of a high-powered committee, chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, which was tasked in 2012 to review the regulatory framework of the legal services sector. The committee submitted its report to the Law Ministry last week.

The ministry will be inviting interested parties to provide feedback on the proposed legislative amendments to implement the recommendations. The Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill is expected to be tabled before the end of this year.

Permanent Secretary of the Law Ministry, Dr Beh Swan Gin, said it believes the recommendations will enable Singapore's regulatory regime to keep pace with and anticipate changes in the evolving legal sector.