Whether you are looking for lawyers in Singapore for business, or looking for corporate lawyers in Singapore to safeguard your business, to grow your wealth, or to raise funds, it may be a daunting task to search for good lawyers in Singapore. After all, there are approximately 5,955 practising lawyers in Singapore as at 2020.
Having a good corporate lawyer can help businesses to make beneficial decisions, secure favourable contracts and avoid potentially costly legal trouble down the road. As a strong partner for your business, a good business lawyer can see you through some of the most challenging times for your company.
The good news is that engaging a good corporate lawyer does not necessarily have to break your budget, if you know how.
In this article, we set out 5 simple steps to help you find a good corporate lawyer in Singapore.
Step 1: Determining your objectives
It is imperative from the outset to determine your final objectives. Having clear objectives in mind is alike to setting the destination for the lawyer to get you there. The more precise your objectives are, the closer a good corporate lawyer can get you there.
A good corporate lawyer will find the shortest and most efficient way to help you achieve your objectives. In some instances, if there are “roadblocks”, a good corporate lawyer will look for suitable and creative legal solutions.
Generally, corporate law practice spans a broad range of matters. Here are just some of the more common situations where businesses should consider engaging a corporate lawyer:
Choosing the type of business entity;
Raising money and choosing the right form of vehicle for fund-raising;
Drafting shareholders agreements or agreements between partners who will invest into the business;
Employment matters; and
Reviewing contracts with customers and suppliers
Step 2: Find corporate lawyers through your network or legal directories
Engaging a business lawyer is, in some ways, similar to searching for your next employee. It is always wise to shortlist at least two or three different corporate lawyers before choosing the individual whom you feel is right.
A good way to source for potential business lawyers in Singapore is through your own personal or professional network. An independent recommendation from a trusted friend or family member, or from a business owner in the same industry can be priceless, especially if they faced or are facing the same legal concerns as you are. If your trusted friend refers someone to you, it is highly likely that they have done the groundwork, have engaged the corporate lawyer personally and were happy with their experience.
Not all law firms and lawyers handle corporate matters. As such, one way of narrowing down the options is through the use of independent and reputable legal directories. One such legal directory can be found on the Law Society of Singapore website at https://www.lawsociety.org.sg/find-a-lawyer/corporate-commercial/. The Law Society in Singapore is an independent body which protects and assists the public to access law and justice. Other well known and commonly used directories include The Legal 500 and Asian Legal Business.
One important step is to look at or ask for the deals and transactions which they have handled. There are corporate lawyers who are "generalists". Like a general medical practitioner, they can help you with a wide variety of commercial needs. However, if you have a specific need, you may need to hunt for a corporate lawyer who can also deliver a specific area of practise. By looking at their past transactions and experience, you are able to assess the depth of their practice, and whether it is sufficient for the needs of your business.
Step 3: Ask questions
After identifying a few options, it is time to shortlist the lawyer who you can engage. This process is best done through consultations. Most lawyers offer a free half an hour consultation to meet with potential clients. This may be done through the phone, video call, or in-person.
If possible, physical meetings are the best. It shows that the lawyer places importance on building client relationships and is willing to make time for you. Furthermore, meeting the lawyer in person allows you to get a better sense of their personality.
Be prepared to ask a couple of important questions such as the following during the consultation:
What is your experience with my specific legal issue?
What is your experience working with a business of my size?
Do you have any conflicts of interest? Check that the lawyer is able to act for you and is not representing or has previously represented the other party on the other side.
What is your fee structure?
Step 4: What is the fee arrangement?
As with all services, good legal services come at a cost. It is common for lawyers to bill by the hour. However, such a fee structure may leave you with a massive legal bill.
Having said that, there are also other fee arrangements that the lawyers may offer, especially if they work in a smaller law firm which allows for greater flexibility. Such fee arrangements can include:
A lawyer might charge a fixed fee instead of an hourly rate.In such an arrangement, the scope of work that the lawyer will do for you is set out, and a flat fee is charged based on the scope of work required.
Hourly fee with a cap
Lawyers may charge by the hour but with a cap on the fees.Where the lawyers use less time than anticipated on your matter, you will be charged less. Where the lawyers use more time on your matter, there is a maximum cap on the fees to be paid by you. This essentially place a limit on the fees chargeable for a defined scope of work that will be set out in the lawyer’s letter of engagement.
Should you require a lawyer to deal with your legal issues on a regular basis, you may consider engaging a lawyer on a retainer.
This is basically paying the lawyer for a fixed timeframe during which the lawyer will provide the necessary advice and works done until it reaches the set sum paid as the retainer fee. The scope of work the lawyer will provide under the retainer and the costs of any additional works will usually be agreed upon in the lawyer’s letter of engagement.
Step 5: Consider the lawyer's approach and fees and how they fit with your business and needs
After having consulted a few lawyers and obtained some fee quotes, it is time to evaluate the options and proposed fee arrangements to see how they might fit with your business and needs.
Having spoken to the lawyers, you would have a better feel of each lawyer’s personality and approach to clients. While the subject matter expertise of the lawyer is important, you should consider if the lawyer’s personality and approach match with your own personality and expectations. Remember, a lawyer fills the role as a trusted advisor and you should be comfortable in communicating with him or her.
Furthermore, an evaluation of the proposed fees is important. A larger firm may mean a larger support network and more resources available to assist you. However, will it be necessary to pay a premium for these? This is especially true if your matter is one that is not very complex.
On the other hand, a smaller law firm will usually offer lower fees. A smaller firm does not necessarily mean a smaller support network and less resources available to assist you. This is why meeting with the lawyer is important in order to understand the experience he or she has, as well as the depth of support the law firm has. Additionally, a smaller law firm may be able to offer you a more personal service and greater attention as they tend to have a lower number of clients at any given time.
We hope that the steps above assist you in your search for a corporate lawyer. Ultimately, you want to have a trusted lawyer you can work well with whilst staying within your specified budget.