Law Ministry resolves issue with legal group

The Law Ministry has accepted the explanation from a Singapore legal group over its links to an English barristers' chambers.

Essex Court Chambers Duxton (Singapore Group Practice) comprises Senior Counsel V. K. Rajah, a former judge of appeal who stepped down in January this year as attorney-general, and three former justices' law clerks - Mr Tham Lijing, Mr Colin Liew and Mr Calvin Liang.

In a statement yesterday, the ministry said the matter has been resolved after Essex Court Duxton outlined the steps taken to correct misperceptions that it was part of the Essex Court Chambers (ECC) in London.

"Even though members of Essex Court Duxton are also members of ECC, Essex Court Duxton was not 'set up' or 'launched' by ECC; still less is Essex Court Duxton an 'annexe' or 'local brand' of ECC," the group said in its letter to the ministry.

It added that media reports suggesting that the Singapore group practice was set up by ECC were mistaken.

"Any communications that may have contributed to this were inadvertent," said the group in the letter, which was disclosed by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw).

Essex Court Duxton also explained that the Singapore practice is modelled on a traditional barristers' chambers, in which the members practise individually despite being members of a set of chambers.

It added that members are not partners in a firm, nor are they employees.

Essex Court Duxton said its future communications and publicity will ensure more clarity that it is "an independent Singapore group practice".

It added that it has written to all relevant media outlets to ask that corrections be made, and also that the press statement has been removed from the ECC website "so that it could be clarified in a manner that leaves no room for doubt".

Two days after Essex Court Duxton announced its launch here on Nov 14, MinLaw called for a clarification from the Singapore group, saying the group had given an impression that it is part of the English barristers' chambers based in London.

This was contrary to the representations received earlier from the Singapore group, and to the rules in Singapore, the ministry said.

Barristers from ECC cannot practise Singapore law and cannot appear in Singapore courts unless they have been given leave by the Singapore courts or have been admitted to the Singapore Bar.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2017, with the headline 'Law Ministry resolves issue with legal group'. Print Edition | Subscribe