Trowers & Hamlins has become the first law firm to secure a Qualified Foreign Law Firm (QFLF) licence in Malaysia as it seeks to capitalise on its Islamic finance offering and target European bound investment.
The licence, which was approved by the Malaysian Bar Council, went into effect on 4 April and will allow Trowers to operate independently in the country and advise clients on international legal issues – subject to certain restrictions.
The new office will see London-based partner Nicholas Edmondes – who specialises in inward investment into the UK and Europe on behalf of overseas clients – relocate to the new base alongside the current head of the firm’s representative regional office in Malaysia, Nick White.
The move comes as the firm boosts its Asia footprint and follows changes to the Legal Profession Act, which in June 2014 opened the country’s doors to allow foreign firms to practise law as a QFLF or international partnership. The QFLF licence will last for three years and is renewable, although law firms with licences or that enter into international partnerships that are licensed are still not permitted to advise on Malaysian Law.
‘The Malaysian Government has made it clear that one of the main reasons for liberalising the legal market was to attract foreign firms and help boost the country’s Islamic finance market,’ said Edmondes. ‘Only firms with strong Islamic finance practices are being considered and it is a testament to the strength of our practice that we have been selected as the first QFLF recipient.’
Prior to obtaining its licence, Trowers operated a non-trading representative regional office in Kuala Lumpur following approval from the Malaysia Investment Development Authority (MIDA). The office launched in July 2012 as the first foreign law firm and the only UK law firm to establish a representative regional office in Malaysia. It applied for the QFLF in February this year.
White, who has been based in Kuala Lumpur since 2012, said: ‘Having a presence on the ground in Malaysia over the last three years has really helped us strengthen and grow client relationships. From Kuala Lumpur we have access to the entire ASEAN region, and now, with a QFLF licence, we will be able to grow additional capacity to further advance our reach and capabilities here.’