Local Legal Firms Doomed?

Globalisation is making it hard for local firms to remain relevant. Adrian Tan sees a bleak future for them. By S. Sakthivel

In five years, the local Singapore law firm may be a thing of the past, reckons lawyer Adrian Tan.

Tan, a partner at Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC, says that the increasing pace of globalisation and the demands of clients looking for legal advice with a wider geographic reach means that the idea of a local law firm will soon become all but obsolete.

Enter the larger corporations, who create partnerships to have presence in local environments while offering international experience. Tan’s firm, Stamford Law Corporation combined with Morgan Lewis from the US in 2015. Tan likens it to a marriage of sorts when firms are able to reach an amicable agreement. But he warns that firms that resist can also find themselves at the end of a hostile takeover or worse a slow death by attrition as they lose talent and clients to international firms.

In this age of disruption, Tan accepts that this is just the natural scheme of things. Survival of the fittest, especially since the practice of law is changing.

Tan comments that practitioners are changing too, with a new breed of lawyer, looking for fulfilment rather than just filling their pockets making their mark in the industry. The promise of attractive remuneration and prestige doesn’t cut it anymore in attracting and retaining the best talent in the industry. With more young lawyers looking to make a difference and use their skills to play a part in society, Tan says that the way his firm approaches recruitment is also changing to suit the mindset of the “millennial lawyer”.

Tan tells us more about the challenges that await his industry and the efforts he has taken to remain relevant.

Adrian Tan is a panelist at STORM magazine’s upcoming event, Keep It Going 2016, which brings together leaders and decision makers from various industries who talk about Protecting Against Headwinds.

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