Around 900 attendees from 19 jurisdictions flocked to discuss the latest industry developments and trends at the APAC Legal Congress 2023 held at the One Farrer Hotel Singapore on 3-4 May.
The Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) organised the event under the theme of “Navigating the Legal Landscape”.
Stanley Park, a member of the SCCA board of directors, noted that the regional gathering of legal professionals was the first of its kind organised by the association. The significant number of attendees at the event signals a real appetite for learning about current issues and best practices from peers in the region.
“It also indicates a strong interest in meeting other in-house counsel, lawyers and relevant stakeholders because a large part of this event is not just about sharing information, but also the opportunity to mingle, meet and get to know other professionals,” Park told Asia Business Law Journal.
Singapore’s Law and Home Affairs Minister, K Shanmugam, opened the event as the guest of honour, which was followed by panel discussions on various topics from diversity and inclusion, environmental social and governance, data privacy and cybersecurity, to the impact of artificial intelligence for in-house counsel.
In his speech, Shanmugam said there are good reasons for international businesses to be cautiously optimistic about the Asia-Pacific as the region has become a key engine for the global economy and is poised for stronger growth.
“It is assessed that by 2040, the Asia-Pacific region may account for about 40% of the world’s GDP,” he said. “So, if we look at where we are now, that is going to be extremely strong growth.”
Looking specifically at Singapore, Shanmugam highlighted that the country’s political stability, transparent legal system, and favourable investment policies have established it as a vital hub for business and investment in Asia.
The island serves as the headquarters for 40% of global and multinational companies, and nearly 40 of the world’s top global law firms, as judged by revenue, have set up offices in the city state.
“Singapore has a very substantial pool of legal expertise,” he added. “There are 6,400 local and 1,400 foreign lawyers. Singapore law practices are among the largest, in fact, they are the largest in Southeast Asia.”
On the second day, the legal congress featured an MoU signing between the SCCA and IPOS International, the technical expertise arm of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS), to deepen capabilities, skills, and knowledge for in-house lawyers.
IPOS International managing director, Kok Kitt-Wai, and SCCA co-presidents, Renita Sophia Crasta and Daniel Choo, attended the signing of the MoU.
The MoU brought both parties to develop and refine competency frameworks around intangible assets and IP, as well as co-organise training, seminars and professional development programmes, to strengthen internal capabilities. With this partnership, the SCCA members can also look forward to exchanging knowledge with experts and accessing valuable resources from IPOS International.
Crasta and Choo said IP is among the critical issues for in-house counsel and, following the partnership with IPOS International, the organisation aimed to deepen collaboration with other legal institutions.
Furthermore, as the in-house counsel community in Singapore is growing, the co-presidents observed the need to bring the in-house counsel community together to keep updated with the latest trends in the region, especially after the pandemic had subdued gatherings.
“Especially, as more and more of our roles are going regional, is very important for us to really understand the region and to have a basic knowledge of what is happening and the different laws,” said Crasta.
Considering the demography of in-house counsel in Singapore which mostly cover more than one jurisdiction, Choo saw it reasonable to have various topics in the APAC Legal Congress that resonate widely with the region.
Bryan Yeo, executive director of the SCCA, added that the APAC Legal Congress 2023 served as a platform for thought leadership and knowledge dissemination.
Legal landscapes and case studies were presented, highlighting innovative approaches to problem-solving and successful legal strategies implemented in different jurisdictions, he said. This knowledge-sharing promoted professional development and equipped attendees with valuable insights to enhance their practice and contribute to the advancement of the legal field.
“The success of the APAC Legal Congress 2023 can be attributed to meticulous planning, a well-curated programme, and the active participation of industry leaders and professionals,” said Yeo. “The congress not only provided a forum for discussion but also served as a catalyst for the growth and development of the legal profession in the Asia-Pacific region.”