Frequently Asked Questions

Working as in-house counsel in Singapore : FAQ

The in-house profession in Singapore is not regulated.  It is not necessary to be admitted to the Bar (whether in Singapore or elsewhere) or to hold a practising certificate before you can be employed as in-house counsel. The position is the same for both local and foreign lawyers practising in-house in Singapore.

There is no restriction as to which laws an in-house counsel in Singapore can advise on. However, you should be familiar with the relevant regulations and processes before you provide your advice. 

In-house counsel cannot

  • appear or plead in any Singapore court unless otherwise permitted by law;
  • appear in any hearing before a quasi-judicial or regulatory body, authority or tribunal in Singapore unless otherwise permitted by law; or
  • attest any document which is required to be attested by an advocate and solicitor (i.e. someone who has been admitted to the Bar in Singapore and who holds a practising certificate).

As the in-house profession is not regulated, there is no code of conduct that binds all in-house counsel as such.  In-house counsel who are admitted to the Bar (whether in Singapore or elsewhere) are subject to the disciplinary regimes that are applicable to them by virtue of their having being admitted to the Bar in their respective jurisdictions.

The Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) has a Code of Ethics which is binding on its members.

Yes, under the amendments to the Evidence Act (Chapter 97) which came into force on 1 August 2012, communications between an in-house counsel and his client, made for the purpose of his employment as in-house counsel, are now protected by legal privilege. However, this protection does not apply to:

  • any communication made in furtherance of any illegal purpose;
  • any fact observed by in-house counsel in the course of his employment as such in-house counsel showing that any crime or fraud has been committed since the commencement of his employment as in-house counsel;
  • any communication not made for the purpose of seeking the in-house counsel’s legal advice;
  • any document which in-house counsel was made acquainted with otherwise than in the course of and for the purpose of seeking his legal advice.

The relevant statute is the Legal Profession Act (Chapter 161).  Singapore statutes are available online at http://statutes.agc.gov.sg.

Our Peers Chapter has launched a mentorship programme earlier in 2016 and you can write to peers@scca.org.sg for more information. Please visit the Peers Website.

SCCA offers useful continuing legal education resources and regular legal updates on our website to its members

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