GAR Know How Litigation: Singapore

Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
The Supreme Court of Singapore and the State Courts of Singapore have jurisdiction to hear civil cases.

The Supreme Court comprises the Court of Appeal and the High Court (which itself is made up of the General Division, the Appellate Division and the Singapore International Commercial Court). The State Courts consist of the district courts, magistrates’ courts, coroners’ courts, small claims tribunals, community disputes resolution tribunals and employment claims tribunals.

Civil cases, where the value of the claim exceeds S$250,000, will be heard in the General Division of the High Court whereas civil cases where the value of the claim falls below S$250,000 will be heard in the district courts (S$60,000–S$250,000), magistrates’ courts (under S$60,000) or small claims tribunals (S$20,000 and under).

Civil cases are heard at first instance before a judge or magistrate and appeals may be brought up from the state courts to the High Court and ultimately to the Court of Appeal.

Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister while district court judges and magistrates are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Chief Justice.

The doctrine of stare decisis applies in the Singapore legal system. Lower courts are bound to follow a decision or precedent set by the courts higher up in the judicial hierarchy system. Courts on the same level, however, are not bound by earlier decisions or precedents set by other courts at the same level. The doctrine of stare decisis only applies to the ratio of a judgment – this refers to the judge’s decision in applying the law to the factual problem before him or her. The observations made by the judge in a judgment do not create precedent but they may be persuasive especially when it comes from a court higher up in the judicial system.

The jury system was abolished in Singapore in 1969.

Give an overview of basic procedural principles that govern civil litigation in your jurisdiction.
The overarching law governing the procedural principles is the Rules of Court 2021, which came into force on 1 April 2021. The Rules of Court 2021 are to be read with the Supreme Court Practice Directions 2021 and the State Courts Practice Directions 2021.

Under Order 3 Rule 1 of the Rules of Court 2021, the court seeks to achieve five Ideals, namely, fair access to justice, expeditious proceedings, cost-effective work, efficient use of court resources and fair and practical results suited to the needs of parties.

Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
Singapore has a fused legal profession where lawyers called to the Singapore Bar can practice as advocates or solicitors. Individuals who wish to be called to the Singapore Bar must be a qualified person (ie, a person possessing the requisite qualifications) who is at least 21 years old and of good character. The individual must also have served the requisite practice training period, completed the necessary courses of instruction held by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education and passed the relevant Bar examinations.

Foreign lawyers who wish to practise in Singapore law must pass the Foreign Practitioner Examinations and be registered with the Legal Services Regulatory Authority. However, such foreign lawyers are restricted practising in “permitted areas of legal practice”. The permitted areas of law include banking and finance, mergers and acquisitions and intellectual property law.

Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
The Singapore legal system is recognised for its fairness, integrity and efficiency.

The introduction of the Rules of Court 2021 was intended to further improve the efficiency and speed of adjudication and to keep legal costs at reasonable levels. Legal proceedings are to be instituted only as a last resort. Parties are expected to consider and explore settlement prior to the commencement of legal proceedings.

In 2021, a total of 29,295 civil cases were filed in the state courts and 12,672 civil cases (comprising both civil originating processes and civil interlocutory applications) were filed in the High Court. The state courts and High Court achieved high disposition rates (Caseload statistics 2021).

What are the sources of law and rules governing international jurisdiction in civil matters?
Pursuant to section 16(1)(a)(ii) of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act, the Singapore courts have jurisdiction to hear and try any action in personam where the defendant is served with process outside Singapore, with the leave of court in accordance with the Rules of Court.

A non-exhaustive list of factors the Singapore court will consider when deciding whether it is the appro- priate court to hear the action can be found at paragraph 63 of the Supreme Court Practice Directions 2021.

What are the criteria for determining the jurisdiction and venue of the competent court for a civil matter?
To determine the jurisdiction and venue for a civil matter, the Singapore courts will consider whether Singapore is the natural or most appropriate forum for the dispute. Where an applicant wishes to challenge this, the court will apply a two-stage test that first considers whether there is an available and clearly more appropriate forum elsewhere and second, whether there are any reasons why the Singapore courts should exercise its jurisdiction even if it is not the prima facie natural forum.

Does your jurisdiction commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions?
Given the sterling reputation of Singapore as an international dispute resolution hub, it is common for disputes in Singapore to have international elements. Singapore is also often chosen as a neutral third-party venue for the determination of disputes. This is one of the key considerations in the establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court in 2015.

As stated on its website, the Singapore International Commercial Court has the jurisdiction to hear and try an action if:

    • the claim in the action is of an international and commercial nature;
    • the parties to the action have submitted to the SICC’s jurisdiction under a written jurisdiction agreement; and
    • the parties to the action do not seek any relief in the form of, or connected with, a prerogative order (including a mandatory order, a prohibiting order, a quashing order or an order for review of detention).

An action is “international” in nature if:

    • any of the following places is situated in a state other than Singapore:
    • the place of business of at least one party to the action;
    • the place where a substantial part of the obligations of the commercial relationship between the parties is to be performed;
    • the place with which the subject matter of the action is most closely connected; or
    • all parties named in the case when it was first filed have expressly agreed that the subject matter of the action relates to more than one state.

How will a court treat a request to hear a dispute that is already pending before another forum?
Where a claimant begins proceedings against a defendant in two or more jurisdictions on the same subject matter, the Singapore court will generally compel the claimant to elect a jurisdiction to proceed with the claim. This is to prevent a multiplicity of proceedings, conflicting findings made by courts in different forums, and vexatious conduct.

The decision in Virsagi Management (S) Pte Ltd v Welltech Construction Pte Ltd and another appeal [2013] 4 SLR 1097 sets out the legal approach in determining the existence of a lis alibi pendens. The first legal port of call would be to consider the identity of the parties and the causes of action concerned. This will enable the court to identify whether there are the same or similar issues arising from the same factual matrix that are before both the local and foreign courts, and, if so, the extent of these similarities. The nature of the reliefs sought will be relevant to the analysis, given that in most cases the reliefs sought and the causes of action concerned will be inextricably linked with each other. As for the degree of similarity necessary, the party seeking to demonstrate that there is a lis alibi pendens need not show a total correspondence of issues, but the court will be more likely to find a lis alibi pendens where the issues are of a greater degree of similarity. Where the Singapore court finds the existence of lis alibi pendens, it may, upon the application of a party, grant an anti-suit injunction to restrain the claimant from pursuing or continuing to pursue legal action in other jurisdictions.

How will the courts treat a dispute that is, or could be, subject to an arbitration clause or an agreement to arbitrate, including in interim proceedings?
Where a suit is brought in the Singapore courts in relation to a dispute that is subject to an arbitration clause, a party can apply for the court proceedings to be stayed pursuant to section 6 of the Arbitration Act or section 6 of the International Arbitration Act. When considering the validity of an arbitration agreement, the Singapore courts take a pro-enforcement approach and tend to give a wider berth so as to give effect to arbitration agreements as far as possible.

May courts in your country review arbitral awards on jurisdiction?
The Singapore courts adopt a pro-arbitration stance. This, in turn, means minimal curial intervention in so far as arbitration proceedings and awards are concerned. An arbitration award is final and binding on the parties and the instances in which the Singapore courts will intervene or exercise its supervisory jurisdiction are limited.

Where the arbitral award is made under the International Arbitration Act of Singapore, a party may apply to set it aside only on the exhaustive grounds laid out in section 24 of the International Arbitration Act read with article 34(2) of the Model Law. The applicant must prove that it entered into the arbitration agreement under some incapacity, if no proper notice was given of the arbitral proceedings, that the award deals with matters outside the arbitration agreement, that the arbitral tribunal was composed in breach of the arbitral agreement, or if the subject matter is not capable of settlement by arbitration under the laws of Singapore. There is no recourse for a party to appeal against errors of law or fact unless they fall within one of the aforementioned grounds. The Singapore courts have often found themselves having to guard against “back- door appeals”.

In relation to foreign arbitral awards, the Singapore court may refuse enforcement of the same if the party can establish any of the same grounds above.

Are anti-suit injunctions available?
An anti-suit injunction is essentially a court order compelling a party subject to the jurisdiction of the court to refrain from commencing or continuing legal proceedings abroad. The anti-suit injunction may be ordered in various scenarios, such as to enforce an exclusive jurisdiction clause or an arbitration clause, or where there is a multiplicity of proceedings (lis alibi pendens). The focus here is on anti-suit injunctions in the context of enforcing arbitration clauses.

The Singapore courts generally adopt a pro-arbitration stance. The courts strive, as far as possible, to give effect to party autonomy and will, in appropriate cases, grant anti-suit injunctions to prevent a party from reneging on an arbitration agreement. Such applications can be heavily contested. One difficult area concerns the arbitrability of the subject matter of the dispute.

In Westbridge Ventures II Investment Holdings v Anupam Mittal [2021] SGHC 244 (Westbridge), the defendant commenced an action in India for shareholder oppression and company mismanagement. The plaintiff sought an anti-suit injunction in Singapore on the grounds that the dispute ought to be arbitrated. The defendant sought to oppose the injunction on the ground that minority oppression is not arbitrable under the governing law of the arbitration agreement, which he or she submitted was the law of India.

The Singapore High Court held that subject matter arbitrability is determined by the law of the seat of arbitration at the pre-award stage. As the law of the seat in this case was Singapore law, under which the issue of minority oppression is arbitrable, the court found that the dispute was arbitrable and thus granted an anti-suit injunction. This is the first time that the Singapore courts have decided on this issue on the proper law for determining subject matter arbitrability.

The Westbridge decision reflects the Singapore courts’ respect or deference for parties’ arbitration agree- ment. This ultimately gives parties great confidence in choosing Singapore as the seat of any arbitration in arbitration agreements they may enter into.

Which entities are immune from being sued in your jurisdiction? In what circumstances? In what circumstances can creditors enforce a court judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign or a state entity?
Pursuant to the State Immunity Act 1979, a foreign state is immune from the jurisdiction of the Singapore courts unless one of the following exceptions applies:

    • where the state submits to the jurisdiction of the Singapore courts;
    • the proceedings relate to a commercial transaction entered into by the state;
    • the proceedings relate to a contractual obligation of the state that falls to be performed wholly or partly in the jurisdiction;
    • proceedings related to a contract of employment between the state and an individual where the contract was made in Singapore or the work is to be wholly or partly performed in Singapore;
    • the proceedings relate to personal injuries or damage to properties; and
    • the state has agreed to submit the dispute to arbitration.

However, an important and nuanced distinction that ought to be borne in mind is, just because a state loses its immunity from adjudication, does not necessarily mean it also loses its immunity from enforcement of any judgment or arbitral award against it.

How are proceedings commenced? To what extent will a court actively lead the proceedings and to what extent will the court rely on the parties to further the proceedings?
A claimant may commence proceedings by an originating claim or an originating application. As provided for under Order 6 Rule 1 of the Rules of Court, a claimant must commence proceedings by an originating claim where the material facts are in dispute. On the other hand, a claimant must commence proceedings by an originating application where the proceedings concern an application made to the court under any written law; or the proceedings concern solely or primarily the construction of any written law, instrument or docu- ment or some question of law and the material facts are not in dispute.

Formal legal proceedings are commenced with the filing of the originating application or originating claim (as the case may be) in the electronic court filing system known as e-litigation.

Upon the court’s acceptance, a sealed copy of the originating application or originating claim is issued with a corresponding case number. The claimant must then arrange for the court documents to be served on the defendant.

The originating process is only valid for a period of three months, regardless of whether it is meant to be served locally or overseas. However, an application may be made to extend the validity of the originating application or originating claim if it has not been served on all or any of the defendants before it expires. As provided for under Order 6 Rule 3 of the Rules of Court 2021, the court may only extend the validity of the originating claim or originating application only twice and by not more than three months each time, except in a special situation.

What are the requirements for filing a claim? What is the pleading standard?
Pursuant to Order 6 Rule 5 of the Rules of Court, where the originating claim is endorsed generally, a statement of claim must be served within 14 days of the originating claim has been served.

An originating claim may be endorsed generally with a concise description of the claim or with a statement of claim as found in the prescribed form (Form 9), which can be found in Appendix A to the Supreme Court Practice Directions.

The statement of claim should include full details of the parties and also include a brief summary of the nature of the claim, the remedy sought and the amount claimed. The claimant must also plead material facts and particulars of the claim. Claimants are encouraged to provide a succinct and precise account of the facts justifying the claim so as to give the defendant sufficient information about the facts alleged to enable them to understand the case against them. Evidence, points of law and legal arguments must not be pleaded.

What are the requirements for answering claims? What is the pleading standard?
A defendant who is served in Singapore must file and serve a defence (Form 13) to the originating claim within 21 days after the statement of claim is served on the defendant while a defendant who is served out of Singapore must file and serve a defence to the originating claim within five weeks of the statement of claim is served on the defendant.

Where the defendant seeks to challenge the jurisdiction of the court on the ground that the parties have agreed to refer their dispute to arbitration or on any other ground, the defendant need not file and serve a defence on the merits but must file and serve a defence stating the ground on which the defendant is chal- lenging the jurisdiction of the court.

In terms of form and structure, the defence is to be a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the whole statement of claim filed in the matter. In other words, the defendant has to set out each paragraph of the claimant’s statement of claim followed by his or her response sequentially. Material facts and particulars of the defence must be pleaded while evidence, points of law and legal arguments must not be pleaded.

What are the rules regarding further briefs and submissions?
Under Order 6 Rule 10 of the new Rules, no further pleadings (ie, reply to defence or reply to defence to counterclaim) following the defence can be filed except with leave of court. However, it is clarified that the approval of the court may be sought to file any further pleadings, in cases where it is necessary for certain matters to be pleaded, and not merely to deny an averment in the defence. A reply, if so filed, should have additional material facts or responses not simply to deny assertions made in the defence.

Parties can no longer amend pleadings once before the close of pleadings without the permission of the court, because the period by which pleadings are deemed to be closed is no longer calculated. Instead, plead- ings may only be amended with the permission of the court under Order 9 Rule 14, or by written agreement between the parties not less than 14 days before the commencement of the trial. The court shall not allow any pleading to be amended less than 14 days before the commencement of the trial except in a special case.

To what degree are civil proceedings made public?
In general, actions that are commenced by way of an originating claim are adjudicated by a single judge in open court whereas actions commenced by way of an originating application tend to be heard in chambers. As a matter of court rules, photography and audio-video recordings are not allowed.

A non-party to the matter may also apply to inspect a case file and court documents, though prior leave of court will be required wherein the requestor explains his or her interest in the matter and identifies what documents he or she requires and why. To prevent the possible inspection of a case file by a non-party, an application to seal the case file or a specific court document can be taken out in accordance with the rules and procedures. Such applications will be heard by a judge who may grant the order with or without imposing conditions.

Will a court render (interim) assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute? What role and approach do courts typically take regarding settlement? Are there mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation?
Under Order 9 Rule 19 of the Rules of Court, upon a party’s application or on the court’s own accord, the court may decide any question of law or the construction of any document arising in any action without a trial or hearing on the facts. Where the court’s decision in this regard, fully determines (subject only to any appeal) the entire matter or any claim or issue therein, the court may give judgment or dismiss the action or make any order that is appropriate.

The court will encourage parties to settle the whole or part of the case, and the parties are under a continuing obligation to consider the possibility of settlement. Generally, parties are not required to attend any mandatory settlement conferences. However, Under the new Rules, the court is empowered to order parties to attempt to resolve the dispute other than by litigation or to reconsider any offer of amicable reso- lution, should it not be satisfied that the duty under Order 5 Rule 1 (requiring parties to consider amicable resolution before the commencement of any action) has been properly discharged.

Is referral to mediation or another form of ADR an option, or even mandatory, before or during the litigation?
To ensure that parties properly address their minds to the avenue of amicable resolution, Order 5 Rule 1(1) of the Rules of Court imposes on litigants the obligation to consider amicable resolution before commencing any action or appeal. This is a continuing obligation and parties must consider or revisit the possibility of amicable resolution in the course of the proceedings.

Before commencing an action, a claimant must make an offer of amicable resolution unless he or she has reasonable grounds not to do so. Such an offer of amicable resolution is defined under Rule 1 as “an offer to settle the action or appeal or making an offer to resolve the dispute other than by litigation, whether in whole or in part”. At the same time, the offeree shall not reject such offer unless there are reasonable grounds to do so. The Rules are silent as to what constitutes “reasonable grounds”. This will be shaped by future judicial pronouncements.

Under the new Rules, the court is also empowered to order parties to attempt to resolve the dispute other than by litigation or to reconsider any offer of amicable resolution, should it not be satisfied that the duty under Rule 1 has been properly discharged.

Referral to mediation or another form of ADR is an option available to the parties both before and during litigation. There may be costs consequences for a party if it unreasonably refuses an offer to mediate or fails to respond to a mediation request at all. Further, courts are supportive of the use of mediation or other forms of ADR and may be willing to grant a short stay of proceedings to allow parties time to participate in ADR.

What are the forms of emergency or interim relief?

The court is empowered to grant a wide range of injunctive and interim orders. These include the Mareva injunction, which is a freezing order in order to prevent the dissipation of assets by the defendant. Other interim relief the court can grant include the Anton Piller order (search orders) that seeks to prevent a defendant from destroying incriminating evidence by permitting certain persons to enter his or her premises to search for, seize and retain documents or other items. It is also possible to seek other forms of interim relief such as security for costs or disclosure orders (known as Norwich Pharmacal orders) requiring third parties to provide information or documents. Applications for such orders are often done by way of an application without notice (ie, ex parte).

What must a petitioner show to obtain interim relief?
Commonly sought interim relief are the prohibitive and mandatory injunctions. The specific requirements would differ according to the interim relief sought.

Section 4(10) of the Civil Law Act 1909 empowers Singapore courts to grant mandatory orders or injunc- tions where “just and convenient” to do so. To obtain a prohibitory injunction, the petitioner must show that there is a serious question to be tried, and the balance of convenience lies in favour of granting an injunction. To obtain a mandatory injunction (compelling the injuncted party to take positive steps), the petitioner must show that: (i) there is a “high degree of assurance” that at the trial, it will appear that the injunction was rightly granted; and (ii) the balance of convenience lies in favour of granting an injunction. An Anton Pillar order, also known as a search order, is an example of a mandatory order.

To obtain a Mareva or freezing injunction, the petitioner must show that: (i) as claimant, he or she has a valid and accrued cause of action against the defendant, and the court has in personam jurisdiction over the defendant; (ii) the claimant has a “good arguable case”; (iii) the defendant has assets within or outside Singapore that can be subjected to a Mareva injunction; and (iv) there is a real risk that those assets may be disposed of or dissipated so that any judgment that the plaintiff may obtain cannot be enforced.

To obtain security for the defendant’s costs of defending the action, the petitioner has to show that the claimant falls under one of the classes of persons set out in Order 9, rule 12(1) of the Rules of Court 2021. It is common for such interim relief to be granted where the claimant is ordinarily resident out of the jurisdic- tion or is a nominal claimant suing for some other person’s benefit.

It should also be noted that in ex parte applications the petitioner has a duty of “full and frank disclosure”, which means that he or she is obliged to fully disclose and bring to the judge’s attention all facts that are objectively material to the judge’s determination of the application.

What types of decisions (other than interim relief) may a court render in civil matters?
Generally, a court may render two types of decisions in civil matters.

The first type is a decision on the merits of the case. Typically, a court will render its decision at the conclu- sion of trial, in full and final disposal of the matter, subject to any appeal. A court may also render a decision on the merits of a case in a summary judgment application. Where summary judgment is ordered, the court essentially takes the view that the defendant has no triable defence and the matter can be disposed of by way of affidavit evidence alone, without the need for trial. A court may also strike out the claimant’s statement of claim in part or in whole if it is of the view that the claimant’s claim (or the struck-out portion) is legally or factually unsustainable.

In this connection, it should also be noted that Order 14 Rule 12 of the Rules of Court 2021 empowers the court to determine any question of law or construction of any document if it appears to the court that such determination will dispose of the matter (any right of appeal notwithstanding) without a full trial of the action. The courts may also decide on procedural and evidential aspects of the case in interlocutory applica- tions. Interlocutory applications are filed by litigants pretrial to further the preparation of their case for trial. Interlocutory applications include applications for the extension of time, amendment of pleadings, discovery of documents and provision of further and better particulars. The decisions made in such applications typically do not touch on the merits of the case, which is a matter within the trial judge’s domain.

At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision? Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
Where a civil action is commenced by way of an originating claim, the court will typically render its decision on the merits after having considered the evidence and submissions of the parties at trial. Where the matter is commenced by way of an originating application, the court typically determines the claim and renders its decision on the merits based on affidavit evidence alone, and after hearing submissions made by parties at a hearing.

The court may also summarily decide on the merits of a case in the following scenarios:

    • where the claimant applies for summary judgment and successfully convinces the court that the defendant does not have a triable defence;
    • pursuant to Order 14 Rule 12 of the Rules of Court 2021, where the court determines any question of law or construction of any document and the court is of the view that such determination would be dispositive of the case; and
    • where the defendant files an application to strike out the claimant’s statement of claim in full, thereby determining the claim.

Under which circumstances will a default judgment be rendered?
A claimant may obtain default judgment in the following scenarios:

    • the defendant fails to file its notice of intention to contest or not contest within 14 days of being served the statement of claim in Singapore or within 21 days of being served the statement of claim outside of Singapore; or
    • the defendant fails to file its defence within 21 days of being served the statement of claim in Singapore or within five weeks of being served the statement of claim outside of Singapore.

A default judgment is not based on the merits of the case and the defendant may apply to set it aside.

How long does it typically take a court of first instance to render a decision?
There are no prescribed timelines as to how soon a court must render its decision for a given matter. The more complex and protracted the litigation, the longer the court is likely to take to render its decision. In straightforward cases, the court may render its decision immediately upon the conclusion of the hearing or trial.

How can third parties become involved in proceedings?
Order 9 Rule 10 of the Rules of Court 2021 empowers the court to add or remove parties from the proceed- ings. The court may do so on its own motion, on the application of a party to the proceedings, or on the application of any person seeking to be added as a party to the proceedings.

A third party who is not a party to the proceedings but seeks to be added (ie, an intervener) may apply to the court pursuant to Order 9 Rule 10(2) of the Rules of Court 2021. In deciding whether to add the party, the court will consider the following factors: fair access to justice, the likely effect of the intervention on the cost and efficacy of the proceedings, and whether it is fair and just in the interests of all parties to do so.

A defendant may also apply to join a third-party to the suit by way of a third-party notice under Order 10 of the Rules of Court 2021 in three situations: (i) where he or she seeks a contribution or indemnity from that third party, (ii) where he or she seeks relief that is substantially similar to the relief claimed by the plaintiff or relating to the subject-matter of the action and (iii) where any issue relating to the subject matter of the action should be determined between the third party. The purpose of third-party proceedings is to allow all issues related to the subject matter of a dispute to be raised in a single set of proceedings.

Failure to join a particular party does not preclude a litigant from later bringing the same or similar claims against that party, provided that the later claim does not infringe the rule against double recovery.

A decision will generally only be binding on the parties named in the proceedings.

Describe the rules of fact-finding in your jurisdiction.
In line with other common-law jurisdictions, the judge is the ultimate arbiter of fact. The judge will decide on the factual issues in dispute between the parties after considering all the evidence that has been adduced by the parties. In this regard, the judge is guided by the rules of evidence as contained in the Evidence Act 1893. The judge is also the gatekeeper of evidence and will decide on the admissibility, relevance, credibility and weight of the evidence before it. The assimilation of these aspects of evidence will assist the judge in the way he or she determines any given issue.

Will a court take or initiate the taking of evidence or will it rely on the parties to request the taking of evidence and to present it?
In civil proceedings, the legal burden is on the claimant to establish his or her case on a balance of prob- abilities. The claimant will have to adduce sufficient evidence to meet this burden. While the defendant does not bear the burden of having to disprove the claimant’s case, the defendant must adduce sufficient evidence to establish any defences that he or she seeks to raise.

The court has control over the admission of evidence. However, the court does not initiate the taking of evidence. Parties must decide for themselves if they have adduced sufficient evidence to establish their respective cases. Where the claimant fails to adduce sufficient evidence to discharge his or her legal burden, his or her claim would fail. Likewise, if a defendant fails to adduce sufficient evidence to establish a pleaded defence, he or she will fail in that regard.

Is an opponent obliged to produce evidence that is harmful to it in the proceedings? Is there a document disclosure procedure in place? What are the consequences if evidence is not produced by a party?
All parties to a proceeding are obliged to give discovery of all relevant documents in their possession or control. Relevant documents include those that the party is relying on and those that may be adverse to its case. Once a party becomes aware that legal proceedings may be commenced, it is under a duty to preserve all documents relevant to the dispute.

If a party is of the view that their opponent has not given full or adequate discovery, that party may apply for the court to order the disclosure of particular documents or class of documents. This is commonly referred to as specific discovery. In making such an application, the applicant must: (i) request for a specific document or class of document; (ii) state on affidavit that he or she believes the other party has those documents in their possession, custody or power; and (iii) establish that the document is relevant to the pleaded issues.

A potential claimant may, prior to the commencement of proceedings, apply to the court for an order compelling the disclosure of documents. This is known as pre-action discovery. The court will only make such order if the potential claimant is unable to plead his or her case because he or she does not yet know whether he or she has a viable claim in the absence of the documents sought. If the potential claimant has sufficient evidence to bring a claim but is merely asking for discovery to have a complete picture of all the facts, the court will not make such an order. The applicant must state on affidavit why the order is neces- sary, identify (to the extent possible) the documents sought and identify the potential defendant. The court may also require the applicant to give security for the costs of the person against whom the order is made.

Failing to comply with a discovery order may result in the court exercising its discretion and powers in accordance with Order 11 Rule 11 of the Rules of Court 2021:

    • to order that the action be dismissed or that the defence be stuck out and that judgment be entered accordingly;
    • to draw an adverse inference or make any such order as the court deems fit;
    • punishing the party for contempt of court; and
    • ordering that that party may not rely on any document within the scope of the order without the approval of the court.

Please describe the key characteristics of witness evidence in your jurisdiction. Is witness preparation allowed?
Witness’ evidence is adduced through examination-in-chief, cross-examination, and re-examination. In civil proceedings, examination-in-chief is largely replaced by affidavits of evidence-in-chief, which are sworn statements of fact made under oath. Once the affidavits of evidence-in-chief are accepted as evidence, the opposing counsel can dive straight into cross-examining the witness. This obviates the need for examination- in-chief and helps shorten the length of the trial.

Under Singapore law, witness preparation is allowed but coaching of witnesses is not. The Singapore Court of Appeal’s decision in Ernest Ferdinand Perez De La Sala v Compañia De Navegación Palomar, SA [2018] 1 SLR 894 explains what is permissible in witness preparation.

A solicitor may rightly have a “practice run” with the witness to inform the witness when he or she has given an answer that contradicts his or her affidavit evidence or other statements he or she has made. The solicitor may then invite the witness to consider what the true answer is. A solicitor may also inform the witness of questions that the opposing counsel might ask with regard to the inconsistency or contradiction. However, the solicitor cannot actually supplant or supplement the witness’s own evidence, the preparation sessions with the witness ought not to be lengthy or repetitive (to “drill” the witness) and should not be conducted in groups.

The breach of these rules may, depending on the circumstances, result in the court giving less weight or no weight to the witness’ testimony.

Who appoints expert witnesses? What is the role of experts?
The role of expert witnesses is to assist the court by providing their independent expert views on specialised or technical areas that the court has no expertise on. Expert evidence can only be adduced where the court has made an order permitting the same.

Under Order 12 Rule 3, parties are now required to consider and, as far as possible, agree on one common expert. The object is to save time and costs. Except in special cases and with the court’s approval, a party may not rely on evidence from more than one expert witness for any issue.

In a special case, the court may appoint a court-appointed expert in addition or in place of the parties’ common expert.

Prior to the Registrar’s Case Conference (which is a status conference between parties’ solicitors and the court) where the issue of expert evidence (if any) is to be discussed, parties are to fill in an expert witness template. This form requires parties to provide information such as the details of the proposed expert, list of issues that is to be referred to the expert and proposed duration or timelines for the expert to render his or her opinion. This allows parties to discuss the issues surrounding the expert beforehand.

The formal requirements of what is to be included in the expert’s report can be found under Order 12 Rule 4.

Can parties to proceedings (or a party’s directors and officers in the case of a legal person) act as witnesses? Can the court draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify or act as a witness?
A party to the proceedings can and would generally be expected to give evidence or be a witness for his or her own cause. In the case of corporations, company directors or officers may give evidence on behalf of the entity. This is as long as the witness is able to give evidence relevant to the matters in dispute and has personal knowledge of the matters raised.

Where a party who may reasonably be expected to have relevant information or knowledge, chooses not to testify or act as a witness, the court is entitled to draw an adverse inference against that party. The court will have to cite its reasons for doing also and also consider the circumstances of the matter including the reason for the potential witnesses’ refusal or absence.

How is foreign law or foreign-language documentation introduced into the proceedings and considered by the courts?
Where a legal principle or regulation of foreign law is to be relied upon in proceedings before the Singapore court, it must be set out in the particulars of the claim and would need to be proven as a matter of fact. Often, expert evidence (of an experienced solicitor from the relevant jurisdiction) would be adduced to prove the elements of the foreign law.

As for documents, in general all documentary evidence adduced before the Singapore court must be in the English language. The onus is on the party relying on the documents to obtain and produce a certified translation of the documents.

What standard of proof applies in civil litigation? Are there different standards for different issues?
The general standard of proof required in civil trials is that of a balance of probabilities. This means that a claimant will be successful if they are able to provide credible evidence and if the defendant is unable to provide credible evidence to refute it. If both parties are able to provide credible evidence, the court will prefer the more probable version of the facts.

While the civil standard of proof remains the same, the Singapore courts have nevertheless accepted that where serious allegations are made, such as allegations involving fraud and/or dishonesty, more evidence is required than would be the situation in an ordinary civil case. Such allegations require a higher degree of probability.

One exception to the standard of proof in civil cases concerns civil contempt proceedings, where the appli- cable standard of proof is the standard of beyond reasonable doubt.

What are the possibilities to appeal a judicial decision? How many levels of appeal are there?
Civil cases heard in the first instance by the General Division of the High Court of Singapore are appeal- able either to the Appellate Division of the High Court or to the Court of Appeal, depending on the type of case involved.

The Court of Appeal is the apex court of Singapore and will hear appeals directly from the General Division of the High Court if they fall within a prescribed list in the Sixth Schedule of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act. This list includes cases relating to arbitration, insolvency and restructuring as well as admiralty and shipping.

Appeals for cases that do not fall within the Sixth Schedule of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act should be made to the Appellate Division of the High Court of Singapore. An appeal can be brought against a decision of the Appellate Division of the High Court of Singapore only if the appeal will raise a point of law of public importance and permission is granted by the Court of Appeal.

The General Division of the High Court will hear appeals against civil cases that are first heard in the District and Magistrates’ Courts. Such appeals are subject to permission of the court where the quantum of the dispute does not exceed S$60,000.

What aspects of a lower court’s decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?
As a starting point, not all decisions of a lower court are appealable. The Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1969 should be referred to for a list of the types of decisions that either cannot be appealed or may only be appealed with permission. The reason for such policy is that procedural decisions have a limited impact on the substantive rights of parties and tend not to involve novel points of law.

In Singapore, an appellate court will review both the legal and factual bases of a lower court’s decisions.

The scope of the review, however, differs.

In respect of the law or legal bases of the decision, the appellate court can consider the legal issues afresh and hear or re-hear legal submissions from the parties. However, appellate courts in Singapore are mindful not to interfere with the exercise of discretion by the lower court. The standard of review is that the appellate court will generally reverse the decision of the lower court only where: (i) the trial judge had misdirected him or herself with regard to the principles in accordance with which his or her discretion had to be exercised;

(ii) the judge had, in exercising his or her discretion, taken into account matters that he or she ought not to or failed to take into account matters that he or she ought to; or (iii) the judge’s decision is plainly wrong.

The appellate court is reluctant to interfere with findings of fact. This is because the trial judge in the lower court would have observed the witnesses’ demeanour and behaviour at trial, and would be better placed than the appellate court to assess the credibility and veracity of their evidence.

Adducing fresh evidence before the appellate court is allowed only if the evidence: (i) could not have been obtained with reasonable diligence for use at the trial; (ii) would have had an important influence on the result of the case if it had been presented at trial; and (iii) appears to be credible. This is a difficult hurdle to cross. Findings of fact will only be overturned if the appellate court is of the view that the trial judge’s assessment is plainly wrong or against the weight of the evidence.

Given the approach taken by the appellate court to findings of fact, appeals in Singapore are more often brought in respect of points of law.

How long does it usually take to obtain an appellate decision?
Anywhere from six months to around a year from the time the lower court renders its decision.

The appeal process is initiated by the appellant filing and serving a Notice of Appeal. Pursuant to the Rules of Court 2021, the appealing party may do so up to two weeks from the day that the decision of the lower court was made was rendered. Certain types of decisions are not appealable as of right, and instead, leave to appeal must first be obtained.

Upon the filing of the notice of appeal, the lower court will have 14 days to certify whether it would like to render written grounds of decision (if the judgment was previously rendered orally). The lower court will have up to three months to prepare its written grounds if it wishes to do so.

Prior to the hearing of the appeal, various other documents may need to be filed including the record of appeal, the appellant’s case and the respondent’s case and the core bundle of documents.

After written submissions are filed, an oral hearing may be fixed for the matter to be determined by the appellate court. Appellate courts are empowered under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1969 to deter- mine appeals without an oral hearing, and this power is exercised on occasion.

The above sets out the typical procedure for an appeal. That said, the time taken for adjudication depends very much on the complexity of the case. Appeals may involve novel or complex points of law and the appel- late court may require more time to make its determination. Litigants may also make applications which may lengthen the time needed for the matter to be determined. After the hearing of the appeal, the appellate court may either render its decision immediately, or reserve decision to consider the matter further. There are no prescribed timelines as to how soon a court must render its decision for a given matter. The more complex and protracted the litigation, the longer the court is likely to take to render its decision.

In which conditions does your domestic arbitration law apply? Does it apply equally to purely domestic and international arbitrations, and to commercial and investor-state arbitrations?
International arbitrations are governed by the International Arbitration Act, which incorporates the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration. Domestic arbitrations are governed by the Arbitration Act. The two acts are similar and differ mostly in the extent of judicial review over awards. Singapore does not have specifically designated domestic investment laws or an investment act. However, the Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act 1968 gives effect to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes Convention.

Give an overview of instances in which state courts come into play in domestic and international arbitration proceedings.
The Singapore courts have the power to stay proceedings in the Singapore courts in favour of arbitral proceedings, both local and foreign, and grant interim remedies in support of arbitration. The court’s permis- sion is also required to enforce arbitral awards in Singapore.

In both domestic and international arbitrations seated in Singapore, a party dissatisfied with the ruling of a tribunal on its own jurisdiction may apply to the High Court to decide the matter. The courts may also set aside arbitral awards (see below).

Describe the rules governing recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in your jurisdiction. To what extent do domestic courts review arbitral awards on the substance?
An award made under a Singapore-seated arbitration may be recognised and enforced under the Arbitration Act 2001. Leave of court is required in this regard and where obtained, the award can be enforced in the same manner as a judgment or order made by the Singapore High Court to the same effect. An award made in an international arbitration seated in Singapore can be recognised and enforced in a similar manner under the International Arbitration Act 1994.

Singapore became a signatory to the 1958 New York Convention on 21 August 1986. Part III of the International Arbitration Act 1994 gives effect to Singapore’s international obligations. The New York Convention embodies the principle of reciprocity between contracting states. Singapore is obliged to recog- nise all foreign arbitral awards from contracting states. The procedure for recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award is the same as that in respect of domestic awards and international awards. The Rules of Court 2021 sets out the relevant procedure. Essentially, leave of court must first be obtained to enforce the award. Once leave is granted, the order granting leave has to be served on the award debtor who will be given the opportunity to resist the enforcement of the award. If the award debtor does not do so within the prescribed time or is unsuccessful in its challenge, the award creditor can proceed to enforce the award accordingly.

Where the award debtor seeks to resist the enforcement of an arbitral award, the court will undertake an inquiry into whether the grounds for resisting the enforcement of an award are satisfied. Such grounds include incapacity of a party to the arbitration agreement, invalidity of the arbitration agreement, the award dealing with matters that do not fall within the scope of the arbitration agreement or where such enforce- ment is contrary to public policy. These grounds generally do not touch on the tribunal’s findings on the substance and merits of the dispute which the courts will regard as final and binding on the parties.

Are class actions available?
In Singapore, class actions may be brought in respect of all manner of civil claims in the state courts and the High Court. Class actions fall under the rubric of “representative proceedings” that are governed by Order 4 Rule 6 of the Rules of Court 2021. The touchstone for a representative action is that it must involve numerous persons who have a common interest, whether as claimants or defendants, in any legal proceedings. There is no prescribed minimum number of persons for a representative action. From this group, one or more persons would be appointed to represent the wider group in the litigation. All the members of the group must consent in writing to the appointment of the representatives. The representatives must adequately represent the interests of the class of represented persons and must vigorously and capably prosecute or defend the interests of the entire class. The rationale for representative actions is efficiency, and time and costs savings, as opposed to the situation where each claimant brings an individual action.

There are some statutes that provide for representative actions. This includes section 85 of the Building Maintenance and Strata Management Act 2004, which allows the management corporation to bring legal proceedings or defend the same on behalf of the subsidiary proprietors of the building.

Are derivative actions available?
A derivative action allows a sufficiently interested party to bring an action on behalf of the company to enforce its rights by commencing civil proceedings against wrongdoers. Examples of wrongdoing against the company include directors breaching their duties owed to the company, directors engaging in unlawful or unauthorised acts resulting in loss to the company etc. In some situations, a company is unable to enforce its rights against wrongdoers because, for example, the wrongdoers themselves may be in control of the company or the directors, for commercial reasons, rightly or wrongly, are of the view that it is not in the company’s interests to commence legal proceedings. The touchstone of the derivative action is that a wrong has been committed against the company and the company is unable to take action accordingly.

A derivative action may be brought under section 216A of the Companies Act 1967 or under common law.

Either way, leave of court will have to be obtained.

In seeking leave of court under section 216A of the Companies Act 1967, the applicant will have to show that:

    • he or she has standing to bring the application;
    • he or she has given 14 days’ notice to the directors of the company clearly stating his or her intention to bring a derivative action;
    • he or she is acting in good faith; and
    • it is in the interests of the defendants that the action be brought.

In seeking leave of court to bring a common-law derivative action, the applicant will have to fulfil the following procedural requirements, namely, that (i) the action is brought by him or her as a minority shareholder on behalf any other shareholders of the company excluding the majority shareholders, (ii) the wrongdoers must be named as defendants, and (iii) the statement of claim must disclose that it is a derivative action and plead the material facts in support of the claim. Further, the applicant will also have to fulfil two substantive requirements, namely, that the company has a reasonable case against the defendant, and the applicant has standing to bring the action in the name of the company.

The statutory derivative action and the common-law derivative action are not available when the company is in liquidation. This is because where a company is in liquidation, the duties and powers of management vest in the liquidator, rather than the directors or the majority shareholders. Accordingly, it would be up to the liquidator to decide if corporate actions should be commenced.

Once the court grants leave to commence a derivative action, the applicant can proceed to bring proceed- ings against the wrongdoer in the name of the company. The applicant will control and drive the litigation on behalf of the company. Typically, the court will also make an order for the company to bear the reasonable legal fees and disbursements incurred in connection with the lawsuit.

Are fast-track proceedings available?
Under the Rules of Court 2021, the Singapore courts are given enhanced case-management powers to achieve the five ideals, namely, (i) fair access to justice, (ii) expeditious proceedings, (iii) cost-effective work,

(iv) efficient use of court resources, and (v) fair and practical results suited to the needs of the parties. Depending on the nature of the case, the Singapore courts can issue directions to fast-track the matter to trial or hearing. These could include shorter timelines for the filing of affidavits and submissions, and the dispensation of certain steps in the proceedings.

Under Order 65 of the Rules of Court 2021, the Simplified Process framework will apply to all non-civil cases (barring non-motor injury claims, personal injury claims and negligence claims) filed in the magis- trate’s court and, only if both parties consent, to those filed in the district court. The Simplified Process entails upfront discovery of documents together with the pleadings and the exclusion of certain interlocutory applications such as specific discovery and further and better particulars of pleadings. The conduct of the trial also runs on a chess-clock, with a fixed amount of time given for the examination and cross-examination of witnesses.

Is it possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language?
The official language used in the Singapore courts is English. Court proceedings, both hearings and trials, are conducted in English. Where a witness is unable to converse in English, the party who called the witness would have to arrange for an interpreter to assist in this regard. Documentary evidence tendered in court must also be in English. A party seeking to adduce or tender documentary evidence in a foreign language has to ensure that the document is translated to English and that the translated document is properly certified by the translator.

What legal effects does a judgment have?
There are two types of judgments – judgment in personam and judgment in rem. The former is a pronounce- ment of the court directing a named party to the action to do or abstain from doing something. A person who is not a party to the action cannot seek to enforce the judgment; neither will he, generally, be bound by the same. A judgment in rem involves a court pronouncement or order in respect of a thing. Such a judgment will be binding on the world at large.

A Mareva injunction, which is granted to prevent the disposal of assets, is not an in rem relief. However, a non-party to the action who deals with the assets may be in breach of the injunction order.

Once a final judgment is rendered by a competent court, parties cannot re-litigate the same dispute. The rationale behind this concept of res judicata is to bring about certainty and finality in litigation, and to prevent inconsistent findings being made by the court.

The doctrine of stare decisis applies in the Singapore legal system. Lower courts are bound to follow a decision or precedent set by the courts higher up in the judicial hierarchy system. Courts on the same level, however, are not bound by earlier decisions or precedents set by other courts at the same level. The doctrine of stare decisis only applies to the ratio of a judgment – this refers to the judge’s decision in applying the law to the factual problem before him or her. The observations made by the judge in a judgment do not create precedent but they may be persuasive especially when it comes from a court higher up in the judicial system.

What are the procedures and options for enforcing a domestic judgment?
Where one party fails to comply with a judgment, the innocent party may take steps to enforce the judgment against the party in breach. There are several ways of enforcing a judgment.

If it is unclear whether the judgment debtor has any assets in Singapore worth pursuing, the judgment creditor should file an application for examination of judgment debtor. The judgment debtor will be required to disclose, under oath, the assets that he or she has.

Where the judgment is for the payment of a sum of money and it is known that the party in breach has physical assets within the jurisdiction, the judgment creditor may file a writ of seizure and sale or a writ of delivery both of which involve the seizing of the judgment debtor’s moveable assets. The seized assets are then sold to satisfy the judgment debt for a writ of seizure and sale, while the seized assets are delivered to the judgment creditor for a writ of delivery.

If the judgment creditor is aware of any debts owed to the judgment debtor, for example, funds in a bank account belonging to the judgment debtor, the judgment creditor may commence garnishee proceedings. In garnishee proceedings, the court will order the garnishment of the debt owed by the third party to the judg- ment debtor, in favour of the judgment creditor.

As a last resort, where a judgment debt has not been satisfied, the judgment creditor may commence bankruptcy proceedings (where the judgment debtor is a person) and winding up proceedings (where the judgment debtor is a company).

Generally, where there is no compliance with any court order or judgment, the innocent party may take out committal proceedings against the party in breach. If found guilty, the party in breach may be liable to a fine or imprisonment.

Under what circumstances will a foreign judgment be enforced in your jurisdiction?
In Singapore, a foreign judgment may be recognised and enforced in one of the following ways: under the common law, or (registration under a statutory regime.

The statutory regimes are (i) the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act 1959, (ii) the Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1975, and (iii) the Choice of Court Agreements Act 2016.

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From 1 March 2023, the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act 1921 was repealed and consolidated under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act 1959.

A foreign judgment can be recognised and enforced under common law by commencing a fresh action in respect of the judgment debt. The fresh action is not based on the same cause of action from which the judgment debt accrued. Rather, the fresh action is based on the judgment debtor’s failure to pay the judg- ment debt. The criteria for recognition and enforcement under common law are: (i) the judgment is final and conclusive on its merits, (ii) the judgment must have been laid down by a court of competent jurisdiction; and

(iii) the judgment is for fixed sum of money. It has been held that a judgment in default can constitute a final and conclusive judgment.

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act 1959, a judgment creditor may apply to register a judgment from the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Brunei, Papua New Guinea and Hong Kong. The Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act 1959 has been broadened in scope and now covers monetary judgments, non-monetary judg- ments in civil proceedings if the Singapore courts consider such enforcement to be just and convenient, and interlocutory judgments.

The Maintenance Orders (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act 1975 allows maintenance orders made by the courts of reciprocating countries to be registered in Singapore for the purposes of enforcement. Such main- tenance orders include:

    • payment of a lump sum or periodical payments made by a man towards the maintenance of his wife or foreign wife or by a person towards the maintenance of his or her child; or
    • an order adjudging, finding or declaring a person to be the father of a child, which also provides for the payment by such person of expenses incidental to the child’s birth or, if the child had died, funeral expenses.

The Choice of Court Agreements Act 2016 seeks to give effect to the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements that Singapore ratified on 2 June 2016. The Convention is based on the principle of mutual recognition of court judgments – this requires contracting states to give effect to judgments of other member states as if it were a judgment of their own court.

Will the successful party’s costs be borne by the opponent?
Where costs are concerned, the Singapore courts are guided by the principle that “costs follows the event”. Hence, the general rule is that the successful party’s costs will be borne by the losing party. This is known as party-and-party costs. Solicitor and client costs, on the other hand, refer to the legal costs that the client is liable to pay to his or her lawyer. The successful party’s costs include the professional fees charged by his or her lawyer, and other disbursements or reasonable expenses incurred in the hearing or trial. If parties have contractually agreed that costs will be paid by one party to another in the event of a dispute, the court will also give effect to such agreement.

Where costs are awarded on a party-and-party basis, such costs can be fixed by the court or taxed at a separate hearing. Where the court awards fixed costs, the court will have regard to:

    • Appendix 1 of Order 21 of the Rules of Court, which is a set of guidelines as to the appropriate costs to be awarded in different types of hearings:
    • the conduct of the parties;
    • the amount of work done by the successful party;
    • the length of the hearing; and
    • the complexity of the dispute.

Where costs are ordered to be taxed, the costs payable by the losing party will be determined by a taxation registrar at a taxation hearing.

Costs may also be assessed on the standard basis or indemnity basis. The default position is for costs to be awarded on a standard basis. Indemnity costs is awarded only in exceptional situations, such as where there is misconduct or impropriety involved. The difference between the standard basis and the indemnity basis is that in the latter, any doubt as to whether a cost has been reasonably incurred would be resolved in favour of the party to whom costs are awarded.

Two points bear highlighting. First, the courts have an overall discretion in the award of costs. Hence, where the successful party had misconducted himself during the proceedings, the court could deprive the successful party of his or her costs or apply a discount on the costs to be awarded. Second, while the successful party will be entitled to an award of costs generally, it is unlikely that this will cover his or her solicitor and client costs. The costs he or she receives from the losing party will go towards defraying some of the solicitor and client costs he or she has incurred. But he or she will invariably be out of pocket to an extent.

May a party apply for legal aid to finance court proceedings? What other options are available for parties who may not be able to afford litigation?
A party facing financial hardship may apply to the Legal Aid Bureau for legal aid to finance court proceedings. Legal aid is available for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. Persons applying for legal aid must satisfy both a means test and a merits test to qualify for the same. Pro bono SG is a registered charity that also provides legal aid, subject to a means and merits test, for certain types of criminal cases and family matters such as divorce, family violence, maintenance and children-related issues.

If a party is unable to qualify for legal aid, the other options would be to carry on the litigation in person or to try to obtain third-party funding. Where the party is a corporate entity, however, it needs to be legally represented unless leave of court is obtained for it to appoint a non-legal representative to conduct proceed- ings on its behalf.

Are contingency fee arrangements permissible? Are they commonly used?
In contingency fee arrangements, a lawyer receives payment of the whole or part of his or her legal fees only in specified circumstances. For example, the “no win, no fee” is a contingency fee arrangement. Contingency fee arrangements are regulated in Singapore under the Legal Profession Act. From 4 March 2022, contin- gency fee arrangements are allowed only if certain strict criteria are met. For example, contingency fee arrangements are allowed only for arbitration proceedings, international or domestic, certain proceedings in the Singapore International Commercial Court and related court and mediation proceedings. Lawyers are also required to ensure that the client is fully aware of the details and particulars of the contingency fee arrangement.

An arrangement whereby a lawyer is entitled to an agreed percentage of the sum recovered by the client with no correlation to the work done remains prohibited in Singapore.

Is third-party funding allowed in your jurisdiction?
Third-party funding is regulated under the Civil Law (Third-Party Funding) Regulations 2017. Third-party funding is permitted in Singapore only in certain types of cases such as domestic or international arbitration and any related court or mediation proceedings, and proceedings commenced in the Singapore International Commercial Court.

Are there fee scales lawyers must follow? Are there upper or lower limits for fees charged by lawyers in your jurisdiction?
Lawyers have an ethical obligation to charge fairly and reasonably for work done. There are no prescribed fee scales. In determining if a lawyer has charged fairly and reasonably for his or her work done, various factors are considered, including:

    • the complexity of the matter, including whether the novel questions of law are raised;
    • actual time spent by the lawyers on the matter;
    • the value of the dispute;
    • the number of lawyers working on the matter;
    • the seniority, experience and expertise of the lawyers involved. for example, a senior counsel would typi- cally command higher hourly rates;
    • whether the matter is documents-intensive, which will involve a significant amount of time reviewing the same; and
    • the urgency of the matter.

It is good practice for lawyers to be transparent and upfront about fees with their clients right at the outset. Fee estimates should be provided and if there is significant deviation from the fee estimates or the envisaged scope of work in the course of the instruction, steps should be taken to advise the client of the same.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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