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MinLaw asks S’pore legal practice to clarify links with UK barristers’ chambers

SINGAPORE — The Law Ministry (MinLaw) has taken issue with the connections drawn between a group of Singapore-qualified lawyers and an English barristers’ chambers based in London.

Photo: Ministry of Law

Photo: Ministry of Law

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SINGAPORE — The Law Ministry (MinLaw) has taken issue with the connections drawn between a group of Singapore-qualified lawyers and an English barristers’ chambers based in London.

The ministry has instructed the Essex Court Chambers Duxton to clarify “misimpressions” that it is part of the Essex Court Chambers in London, how these misimpressions came about, and what it will do to correct them within seven days.

Former Attorney-General V K Rajah and lawyers Colin Liew, Calvin Liang and Tham Lijing formed the Singapore group practice, which is located along Duxton Hill in Tanjong Pagar.

MinLaw told TODAY: “The publicity surrounding Essex Court Chambers Duxton (Singapore group practice) appears to have created the misimpression that approval was given to Essex Court Chambers in London to establish a related practice in Singapore. Essex Court Chambers in London, which is an English barristers’ chambers, is not permitted to set up a Singapore group practice.”

In a letter to the group on Thursday (Nov 16), MinLaw disputed reports by Singapore media outlets Channel NewsAsia and The Straits Times, as well as British magazine The Lawyer and legal journal Global Arbitration Review, which suggested that the Duxton outfit is affiliated to the English chambers.

“This is quite contrary to the representations made by the applicant Singapore law firms to the ministry,” MinLaw wrote.

It highlighted an interview that Mr Liang and Mr Liew did with Channel NewsAsia’s Singapore Tonight, where they allegedly “gave the impression” that Essex Court Chambers Duxton is an “annexe” of the English chambers.

The ministry also took issue with a statement published on the Singapore agency’s website on Tuesday, announcing the start of its group practice.

Queen’s Counsel David Foxton, head of chambers at Essex Court Chambers (London), was quoted extending his welcome to the four lawyers as “new members” to the English chambers.

While law firms here are typically organised as partnerships, where partners are joint owners and business directors of the legal operation, the chambers model itself as a group of independent barristers, each of whom is a self-employed sole practitioner.



In a media statement on Thursday, MinLaw said that it was “surprised and concerned” by reports suggesting that Essex Court Chambers Duxton has been “set up”, “opened” or “launched” by Essex Court Chambers, and that the Singapore group practice is an “annexe”, “new practice group” or the “local brand” of the English chambers.

“(MinLaw) has not approved any of this,” it said.

Under the Legal Profession Rules, a Singapore group practice can only be formed by local law firms coming together. A Singapore law practice can also form joint law ventures with a foreign law practice, but foreign practices are not allowed to set up a “Singapore branch” here.

MinLaw said: “Contrary to some suggestions which have been made, the (ministry’s) position is also that barristers from Essex Court Chambers in England cannot practise Singapore law and cannot appear in Singapore’s courts unless they have been given leave by the Singapore courts to do so or have been admitted to the Singapore Bar.”

It added that the lawyers at Essex Court Chambers Duxton had “expressly confirmed”, in their application to MinLaw, that it was “separate and distinct from, and independent of” Essex Court Chambers in London.

In response to TODAY’s queries, Essex Court Chambers Duxton said that the four lawyers who set up the Singapore group practice and are advocates admitted to the Singapore Bar, are the “only individuals who are members of the (practice)”.

“The (Singapore group practice) is not a ‘local brand’ of the members of Essex Court Chambers in London. Nothing in the press release issued on 14 November 2017 is in any way inconstant with this position. The release provides that the members of the (practice) act as independent advocates (or) advisors,” it said.

It also clarified that the well-known Essex Court Chambers is not a firm with partners or employees. Rather, it comprises “individual advocates, each of whom is a self-employed sole practitioner”.

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