A lawyer shall not live by arbitration alone (at least this one shan’t). As much as I practise arbitration, I enjoy advising clients in an area of law that, over time, has developed into a professional hobbyhorse: business-related administrative law. The area of law that empowers, or obliges, state agencies to supervise or interfere with the private economy. The business-related administrative law of Singapore, in German: das Wirtschaftsverwaltungsrecht von Singapur. Repeat after me.
In general, I enjoy this because there are certain local peculiarities which I believe 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. However, when the authorities ‘recommend’ a certain behaviour on their websites, they do so to the local reader. They presuppose a certain mentality, and he who reads it too liberally may not get it. Often enough, there’s actually a legal obligation to do something. For example, to register an activity or obtain a permit, and violating this duty will, well, compromise your market access. I believe after something between fourteen to twenty-one years of personal Singapore experience I’ve got the hang of these things, and of a few others.
On Time for a Change
Apart from that, advising on business-related administrative law allows me to meet circumstances that otherwise I’d never hear of. One of the privileges of the legal profession, to be sure, but one that you easily forfeit if you overspecialise.
Of course, you encounter interesting situations in arbitration proceedings as well. Representing parties in disputes or deciding them as arbitrator is exciting. But once there’s a dispute, it’s usually all about fault and liability. How very satisfying to work on preventing things from going wrong in the first place for a change. If possible.
Food Law, Import Law, Road Licensing Law, or Hazardous Goods Law, and Such
For instance, advising the company that wanted to know, beyond its corporate law needs, what the legal requirements were for lubricants in the local food industry. There you are, diving right into the shallows of Singaporean food additives law.
Or take the company that needed to import heavy-duty trucks into Singapore, and register them for road use. Local import law and traffic administrative law tell you how that’s done.
Or the parties dealing with hazardous goods, who decided to enter into a consignment warehouse agreement. Soon they were asking to what extent each of them will be responsible for the risks arising from the goods. They had a hunch that operating the warehouse will require a permit. Environmental administrative law knew the answer.
And That’s Why…
I’m pleased companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are increasingly finding me for their matters relating to Wirtschaftsverwaltungsrecht in Singapore.
This is the English version of a German LinkedIn post from the other day.