Move seen as a 'timely initiative'

Lawyers working in the corporate field have welcomed a national standard for in-house counsel that is being launched today.

They note that the initiative is timely, given that Singapore is becoming an Asian hub for top-notch in-house legal capabilities, which is itself a draw for multinationals to invest here.

The framework is "long overdue and augurs well for the development of the corporate counsel community here in terms of key competencies, ethics and soft skills required," Mr Wan Kwong Weng, head, group corporate services and group general counsel, Mapletree Investments, said.

This is especially pertinent as the scope of work for in-house counsel is evolving.

G&L Chartered Business Consultants' executive director & head of legal Roy Goh said: "It will benefit counsels in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)."

SMEs are unlike multinationals, which generally have multiple departments supporting a business unit. Counsels in SMEs often have to take on multiple roles, for example, even advising units on business strategy.

"By having a framework, it will definitely help counsels to appreciate strategy communicated from the board," Mr Goh said.

Mr Lam Chee Kin, DBS managing director and head of group legal, compliance and secretariat, said the framework "opens up options to hire Singapore corporate counsel, or strategically, to base legal functions in Singapore".

Multinationals see the framework as a complement to their own standards. Mr Edmund Chan, general counsel of ExxonMobil Asia Pacific, said : "As a global law department, we have a comprehensive internal framework which helps us to develop our lawyers throughout their careers...

"The SCCA's competency framework will complement our own framework in the development of the skills of our attorneys."

The SCCA is a member of In-house Counsel Worldwide, a global network of corporate counsel associations. Through that membership, it adapted the body's code of conduct for corporate counsel with help from the Singapore Academy of Law.

"By adapting the code for local use, the practice of in-house lawyers in Singapore will now be aligned with that internationally. The SCCA code of conduct... will be relevant for in-house counsel here," said Senior Counsel Ang Cheng Hock of Allen & Gledhill.

But the challenge will be how well this framework will "become common parlance in the recruitment and talent retention of an in-house lawyer", SCCA vice-president Dharmendra Yadav noted.

Grace Leong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Move seen as a 'timely initiative''. Print Edition | Subscribe