A law­yer shall not live by arbit­ra­tion alone (at least not this one). As much as I enjoy arbit­ra­tion, I also enjoy advising cli­ents in an area of law that has, over time, become a pro­fes­sion­al hobby­horse: eco­nom­ic admin­is­trat­ive law. This is the area of law that empowers or requires gov­ern­ment agen­cies to mon­it­or or inter­vene in the private sec­tor. The eco­nom­ic admin­is­trat­ive law of Singa­pore, in Ger­man: das Wirtschafts­ver­wal­tung­s­recht von Singapur. Repeat after me.

In gen­er­al, I enjoy this because there are cer­tain loc­al idio­syn­crasies that I think I’m famil­i­ar with, but which may seem ali­en to a busi­ness­man used to the fun­da­ment­al freedoms of the EU. Yes, Singa­pore is one of the most busi­ness-friendly coun­tries in the world. But when the author­it­ies ‘recom­mend’ a cer­tain beha­viour on their web­sites, they are doing so to the loc­al read­er. They are assum­ing a cer­tain men­tal­ity, and those who read it too lib­er­ally may not under­stand. Often enough, there’s actu­ally a leg­al oblig­a­tion to do some­thing. For example, to register an activ­ity or to get a per­mit, and if you fail to do that, well, your access to the mar­ket is jeop­ard­ised. I think after some­thing like four­teen to twenty-one years of per­son­al exper­i­ence in Singa­pore, I’ve got the hang of these things and a few others.

On Time for a Change

Hav­ing said that, advising on com­mer­cial admin­is­trat­ive law allows me to encounter situ­ations that I’d oth­er­wise nev­er hear of. One of the priv­ileges of being a law­yer, but one that can eas­ily be lost if you become too specialised.

Of course, in arbit­ra­tion you will also encounter inter­est­ing situ­ations. Rep­res­ent­ing parties in dis­putes or decid­ing them as an arbit­rat­or is excit­ing. But once there’s a dis­pute, it’s usu­ally about fault and liab­il­ity. How sat­is­fy­ing to work on pre­vent­ing things from going wrong in the first place. If possible.

Food Law, Import Law, Road Licensing Law, or Hazardous Goods Law, and Such

For example, advising the com­pany that wanted to know, bey­ond its cor­por­ate law needs, what the leg­al require­ments were for lub­ric­ants in the loc­al food industry. So there you are, diving into the depths of Singa­pore’s food addit­ives law.

Or take the com­pany that needed to import heavy trucks into Singa­pore and register them for road use. Loc­al import and traffic laws will tell you how it’s done.

Or the parties deal­ing with dan­ger­ous goods who decided to enter into a con­sign­ment ware­house agree­ment. Soon they were won­der­ing to what extent each of them would be respons­ible for the risks arising from the goods. They sus­pec­ted that the oper­a­tion of the ware­house would require a per­mit. Envir­on­ment­al admin­is­trat­ive law had the answer.

And That’s Why…

I’m delighted that com­pan­ies from Ger­many, Aus­tria and Switzer­land are increas­ingly turn­ing to me for their mat­ters relat­ing to Wirtschafts­ver­wal­tung­s­recht in Singapore.

This is the Eng­lish ver­sion of a Ger­man Linked­In post from the oth­er day.