Asia Business Law Journal reveals Malaysia’s best private practice lawyers. Wilda Fong reports

To be one of Malaysia’s top 100 lawyers, you must have the “utmost professionalism and a vast amount of experience and knowledge”, according to Desmond Raju, head of legal of Malaysian Football League, when describing Faisal Moideen, managing partner at Moideen & Max. Simply put, “[Faisal] is a brilliant lawyer,” he adds.

Deepak Pillai, a partner at Christopher Lee & Ong “is an authority when it comes to technology in Malaysia. He is very experienced and up to date with his advice,” according to Norman Ho, a partner at Rajah & Tann in Singapore.

Gerardine Loggere, managing director of Tatum (KL), Malaysia, says, “Leonard supported my company on a complicated dispute … his professionalism and way of working is more than excellent,” when describing Leonard Yeoh, a partner at Tay & Partners.

Mohamed Goush Marikan, senior partner at Goush Marikan Law Practice in Singapore, says of Arun Krishnalingam, a senior partner at Sativale Mathew Arun: “Arun is an excellent counsel. He gives practical advice and has a very good grasp of the law. He is very sharp and effective in court.”

Comments such as these, submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by the clients of Malaysian lawyers and lawyers practising in Malaysia, suggest that they not only look for lawyers with an extensive knowledge of the law, but also those who are client orientated, have a great understanding of business needs and are culturally sensitive, sincere and highly trustworthy.

In addition, most international clients seek out Malaysian lawyers who are commercially savvy, practical when giving advice, and demonstrate passion for the profession.

Spotlighting the individual

Malaysia, a member of the Commonwealth of nations, enjoys one of the most robust and industry-diverse economies in Southeast Asia. The country engages in the adoption of cutting-edge technology for the manufacturing and digital economy, and its people live an affluent lifestyle due to low national income tax, low costs for local food and transport, and a fully subsidized single-payer public healthcare system.

The electronics, automotive and construction industries are the biggest industries in Malaysia, and the country boasts a highly educated and productive labour force because of better education and knowledge-based industries. Malaysians place great value on establishing and nurturing business relationships, and it is an attractive place for foreign businesses.

The Malaysian legal system is largely based on the British common law system as a result of British colonization in the 19th century until 31 August 1957, when the Federation of Malaysia officially declared independence. There is a dual law system in Malaysia and this is based on criminal and civil, and on sharia law. It has also incorporated Australian and Indian Laws into its justice system, as well as Islamic laws that only apply to Muslims, who have their own courts and sentencing guidelines.

Malaysia’s mixed legal system is complex, especially for foreigners, which makes it imperative for both domestic and international businesses to seek legal assistance when navigating the regulatory environment.

The Malaysian legal market continues to be one where clients seek out good lawyers, rather than good law firms. Perhaps this is because of the respect and trust individual lawyers have built and nurtured in lawyer-client relationships, and more importantly their reputation by name, which far outweighs their firm’s brand name or actual size, factors that are predominant in more developed jurisdictions.

It is against this backdrop that Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-list of the top 100 lawyers (including foreign legal consultants/advisers/counsel) practising in Malaysia (see the list of all 100 lawyers and the key practice areas for which they are endorsed following this article).

The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel based in Malaysia and elsewhere, as well as Malaysia-focused partners at international law firms based outside Malaysia. Nearly all of the A-list lawyers are located in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. This may reflect the premium on lawyers who are well placed to have their ear to the ground with regard to developments among the financial and sector-specific regulators, and within the corridors of power in government.

As would be expected, the heads of Malaysia’s top law firms are included in the A-list. These include: Foong Chee Meng, managing partner at Foong & Partners; Adrian Yeow York Koh, managing partner at Mah-Kamariyah & Philip Koh; Azman bin Othman Luk, managing partner at Rahmat Lim & Partners; Christopher Leong, managing partner at Chooi & Company + Cheang & Ariff; Mohamed Ridza Abdullah, managing partner at Mohamed Ridza & Co; Iain Sedgley, managing partner at Sedgley & Co; Ambiga Sreenevasan, founding partner at Sreenevasan; and Wong Jin Nee, managing partner at Wong Jin Nee & Teo.

Accolades aplenty

Marcus van Geyzel, a partner at Peter Ling & van Geyzel, has received praise from clients such as Jennifer Van Dale, a partner at Eversheds Sutherland, Hong Kong, who says: “I have worked with Marcus for about three years and he is my go-to person for all matters on employment and related data privacy issues. My clients love his commercial approach and responsiveness.”

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Jeannette Tam, managing associate at Bird & Bird Hong Kong, says: “I have worked with Marcus for close to eight years now. We can always rely on Marcus to provide quick, clear, commercially savvy and strategic advice, and he puts up with our impossible deadlines too!”

Similarly, Nicholas Tan Choi Chuan, a partner at Shearn Delamore, received admiration from his clients. Yee Hee Pui, a commercial manager of Bombardier Malaysia, had this to say about the Malaysian A-list lawyer: “He is well versed in the commercial practice of the law when rendering legal advice. He is always able to provide practical solutions to our questions, and is quick in terms of his response time.”

Simon Green, head of network development at the British Council, Thailand, says: “Nicholas has provided excellent counsel to me over the past few years and demonstrated a good grasp of both the legal and business environments in which he operates.”

A-list women lawyers

A-list lawyer Yean Sim Miow, a partner at Skrine, received praise from Patricia Ko, foreign attorney at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Philippines, who says: “[Sim] is very knowledgeable in the areas of real estate and project development. Her input and advice are invaluable and she considers both legal and practical aspects.”

Not to be outshone by their male peers, a portion of the A-list was filled by Malaysia’s leading women lawyers including: Esther Chik a partner at Wong & Partners, who has a practice focus on finance and projects; Caroline Francis, managing partner at RamRais & Partners, who specializes in IP law; Lee Lin Li, a partner at Tay & Partners who heads her firm’s IP & technology practice group; Lilian Liew, a partner at Zaid Ibrahim & Co who has led many award winning capital market deals; Grace Yeoh, managing partner at Shearn Delamore & Co, who became her firm’s first female managing partner in its more than 100-year history; and Moy Pui Yee, a partner at Rahmat Lim & Partners, who also sits on the board of directors at Sime Darby, a global trading and logistics player.

Singing high praises

Bryan Ghows, managing director at Taylor Vinters Via in Singapore, has this to say about Wong Jin Nee, a partner at Jin Nee & Teo: “I have been using Jin Nee for both enforcement and prosecution of IP matters in Malaysia for decades. The reason for this is simply because she is very good at what she does.”

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“[Jalalullail] is commercial-thinking. He understands client’s needs and provides extensive advice beyond the requested queries,” was how Azrie Johari, associate legal counsel at Bank Negara Malaysia, describes Jalalullail Othman, a partner at Shook Lin & Bok.

James Mythen, a partner at Allen & Overy in Singapore, describes Samuel Hong, a partner at Kadir Andri & Partners as “a class act and our ‘go-to’ for M&A matters in Malaysia. Whether it is a structured, regulated or plain vanilla inbound or domestic deal, Sam is the first person that we call. Technically good and very commercial.”

Satisfied clients such as these are what make a lawyer or foreign legal consultant/counsel/adviser one of Malaysia’s top 100.

Compiling the A-List

The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal. To identify the top 100 lawyers in Malaysia, we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in Malaysia and around the world – as well as partners at international law firms – and asked them to tell us which lawyers should make the cut. Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Malaysian and global companies, financial institutions and law firms, including: Allen & Overy; American Express; AmInvestment Bank; Asian International Arbitration Centre; Bank Negara Malaysia; Bird & Bird; Bombardier Malaysia; Briddge Legal and Finance; the British Council; China Construction Bank; CIMB Bank; Clover Infinite Capital Ventures; ENRA Group; Eversheds Sutherland; Grant Thornton; Guangdong Wang Jing & Co; Hewlett-Packard; LG; Malaysian Football League; Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu; Navis Capital; Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia; PETRONAS; Powerchina Real Estate; Royal Institution of Surveyors Malaysia; Shopee Malaysia; Sidley Austin; TerraLex; University of Malaya; World Bank; Zhong Lun Law Firm; and many more. The nominations process was backed up by thorough editorial research.

The final list reflects the nominations received combined with the Asia Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience in documenting and analyzing Malaysia’s legal market. All Malaysian private-practice lawyers were automatically eligible for inclusion in the nominations process and, as always, there were no fees or any other requirements for entry.

The names and photographs of all 100 A-list lawyers are published here. In addition, each A-list lawyer was given the opportunity to include their biography and contact details, for which a publishing fee was charged.

It is important to note that while the compilation of the A-list was based solely on independent research, the biographies and contact details that appear alongside many of the listings have been written by the participating lawyers and the content has not been independently verified by Asia Business Law Journal.

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