Engaging a Queen’s Counsel in Singapore

Published on June 10, 2013

Recently, City Harvest Church member Chew Eng Han’s application for representation by a Queen’s Counsel (an elite breed of English barristers) was dismissed by the Singapore High Court judge, V K Rajah JA.

In normal circumstances only advocates and solicitors of Singapore are able to represent litigants before the Singapore courts. The Legal Profession Act (‘LPA’) of Singapore permits ad-hoc admission of foreign senior counsels under exceptional circumstances, in order for them to represent a client before the court. Section 15 of the LPA sets out the conditions where this is permissible:

  1. The foreign lawyer is a Queen’s Counsel or holds any appointment of equivalent distinction of any jurisdiction;
  2. Does not ordinarily reside in Singapore or Malaysia, but intends to come to Singapore to appear in the case; and
  3. Has special qualifications or experience pertaining to the case

Additionally, if the application is made in a case involving constitutional and administrative law, criminal law, or family law, then by way of s 15(2) of the Act, the court will decline unless there is a special reason to do so. This is so because such areas of law are highly peculiar to Singapore, and it is questionable whether a foreign counsel is able to adequately contribute his expertise to the matter.

Finally, by way of s 15(6A), paragraph 3 of the Legal Profession (Ad Hoc Admissions) Notification 2012 also prescribes further matters that the court may consider in deciding whether to admit a foreign senior counsel. They include:

  1. the nature of the factual and legal issues involved in the case;
  2. the necessity for the services of a foreign senior counsel;
  3. the availability of any Senior Counsel or other advocate and solicitor with appropriate experience; and
  4. whether, having regard to the circumstances of the case, it is reasonable to admit a foreign senior counsel for the purpose of the case.