LEGAL MARKET OVERVIEW
Singapore has continued to open up for business post COVID, best highlighted by the return of the Formula One, as well as the many conferences and events (legal and others) that have returned over the recent months. With it, many international businesses seeing the advantages it now holds over Hong Kong are headquartering their business here. 2022 is the year that Singapore took Hong Kong’s crown as Asia’s most prominent financial hub.
Despite the global economic slowdown, the market has been mostly resilient and we have continued to see demand for lawyers with Finance, Corporate, M&A, Private Equity and, to a lesser extent, Disputes. 4 to 5 International Law Firms have announced new offices here this year alone, and we are also seeing an increasing trend in law firm Partners moving to Singapore from Hong Kong.
Singaporeans and PR’s remain in demand particularly for the in-house legal market, but there is also an increasing, political realization around the contribution of foreigners to the growth of the economy in the light of post COVID 19 and instability in Hong Kong.
Perhaps the most significant development of 2022 has been the unveiling of the Long-Term Work Visa (Expats earning over S$30,000 a month to get 5-year work pass), and in some cases job ads for Employment Passes to be halved to 14 days. We see this as a clear indication that Singapore is open for business and ready to attract top international talent to its shores.
Over the next 12 to 18 months as Singapore continues to cement its status as the leading business hub in Asia, we anticipate more senior level appointments at International Law Firms and MNC’s here.
Looking ahead, we see the Global Private Practice market in London and New York slowing down which should benefit markets like Singapore, somewhat insulated by their proximity to and continued growth of ASEAN.
Singapore continues to attract Ultra High Net-Worth investors to its shores and we see sustainable demand for lawyers with Infrastructure/Renewables, M&A/PE and Litigation/Arbitration experience, whether they are considering In-House or Private Practice opportunities.
We also expect to see further international law firm entrants to the SG market over the next 12 to 18 months.
During the last 12 months, salaries have increased with the US law firms in New York and London continuing to raise the bar for remuneration. This has impacted legal hiring across Private Practice and In-House both domestically and internationally, in terms of attracting and retaining talent, particularly in sectors and practice areas which have remained busy despite the global slowdown.
Whilst these pay hikes have peaked in the short to medium term, Singapore will continue to remain a very competitive market where demand for talent outstrips supply, and thus attracting premium international talent with the right opportunity and pay will be key. However, the continued strength of the USD and SGD respectively, aligned with Singapore’s low tax environment make for a compelling case when looking at the overall merits of compensation in Singapore.
PRIVATE WEALTH AND FAMILY OFFICES
As Singapore remains the key wealth management hub in APAC and outperformed their European and Middle Eastern counterparts in all months of this year in the financial asset performance report by Credit Suisse’s inaugural Single Family Office Index, we see a growing demand for Tax, Wealth and Private Client lawyers in the City State both in Private Practice and In-House.
The number of family offices in Singapore started from 27 in 2018 and grew steadily to 400 in 2020 but jumped to 700 by the end of 2021. This growth is set to increase even further. While family offices use the services of law firms extensively, we have also seen demand to hire in-house lawyers to handle all the family’s multiple, complex needs.
“Our methodology focuses on helping our clients find mid-senior internationally experienced legal talent (based within and outside the Singapore market), by drawing on our global networks in London and Singapore.”
Our methodology focuses on helping our clients find mid-senior internationally experienced legal talent (based within and outside of the Singapore market), by drawing on our global networks in London and Singapore.
Whilst our clients are predominantly based in Singapore (our core market), we are increasingly mandated on searches, and have successfully placed lawyers in the wider APAC region and also Europe.
We are able to source candidates who are equipped with strategic decision-making abilities and also advise on cultural fit and personality, as we believe this is an ever more important part of our role as Consultants – to bring harmonious and utilitarian lawyers to the fore, and increase the likelihood of a successful hire staying in the role for the long term.