12 Jan 2016.
Channel News Asia and TODAY
Cross-border business for the legal profession has increased in recent years, with a vast majority of clients opting for arbitration to settle disputes, a study commissioned by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) has found.
Almost three-quarters (74 per cent) of 500 legal professionals here and in the region surveyed, comprising commercial law practitioners and in-house counsel, reported an increase in cross-border business across Asia in recent years. For 18 per cent of them, cross-border business remained unchanged while it decreased for the remaining 8 per cent.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in his speech at the opening of the legal year on Monday (Jan 11), said the survey reveals that “respondents have taken note of our success in creating the Singapore International Arbitration Centre”, as well as awareness of the Singapore International Commercial Court and the Singapore International Mediation Centre. There is “willingness to choose Singapore law to govern cross-border transactions,” he noted.
Cementing Singapore’s success as a regional hub for legal services is one of the factors that will help the legal sector stay successful in the next 50 years, he said.
The SAL survey found that arbitration done outside the public spotlight was the preferred route for resolving disputes, favoured by 71 per cent of the respondents across a wide range of industries, including the finance, shipping and transport, oil and gas, and construction sectors.
The number of cases brought to the Singapore International Arbitration Centre quadrupled within a decade to 259 in 2013. Respondents who favour arbitration cited enforceability, confidentiality and fairness as the top three factors that influence their choice.
More than half of the respondents (52 per cent) also cited Singapore as the preferred venue for resolving cross-border disputes, compared to Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, United States and their clients’ home countries.
An “established legal system” and “certainty of law” are among key factors burnishing Singapore’s arbitration credentials, said the SAL.
Moving forward, the academy’s International Promotion of Singapore Law Committee plans to develop areas of industry specialisation, publicise the benefits of adopting Singapore law as the governing law in cross-border contracts, and increase familiarity of Singapore law.