Asia Business Law Journal reveals the best lawyers from the top law firms in Singapore. Wilda Fong reports

To be in the city-state’s elite, a top lawyer in Singapore needs to be an “effective and efficient negotiator with good business acumen, and know how to pick the right battles,” according to Karen Wee, deputy general counsel of Singtel, when describing Christy Lim, a partner at WongPartnership. “She remains hands-on to achieve high-quality work and documentation, takes an active lead and drives deals to smooth closure.”

Chin Siew Seng, director of AC Tankers Services, Singapore, says you need to be “very knowledgeable, responsible, thoughtful and an attentive lawyer”, which is how he describes K Murali Pany, managing partner of JTJB Lawyers. He adds: “He can be relied on to handle any task. I have total faith and trust in him.”

“Responsive, proactive, knowledgeable, practical, commercially perceptive, strategic, meticulous and flexible if required” are the qualities Kong Man Er, director of dispute resolution at Drew & Napier possesses, according to Jennie Tan, general manager of procurement of commercial and contracts at Rotary Engineering, Singapore.

Singapore lawyersAndrew Chan, executive vice president of Marubeni International Petroleum, describes John Sze, deputy managing partner at JTJB Lawyers, as having, “commercial acumen, deep insight into the oil and gas industry, and the maritime industry”. He adds, “[John] is sharp and able to break down complex issues into commercially understandable explanation, and is value for money.”

Comments such as these, submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by the clients of Singaporean lawyers, suggest that they not only look for lawyers with an extensive knowledge of the law, but also those who are attentive and can provide practical and strategic solutions.

In addition, most international clients seek out Singapore lawyers who have a range of expertise and an international mindset.

Spotlighting the individual

Singapore has sometimes been dubbed the “Switzerland of Southeast Asia” because of its consistent economic growth, stability and prosperity. However, as a city-state that is heavily dependent on exports overseas, it has recently felt the fallout of US-China trade tensions via a contracted economy, and reportedly may be headed towards a recession towards the end of 2019.

From a business perspective, Singapore has established itself as a major financial centre with a transparent legal framework based on an English common law system that has evolved over the years. The Singaporean 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 firm 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 Singapore (see the accompanying list of all 100 lawyers and the key practice areas for which they are endorsed). The list is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel based in Singapore and elsewhere, and Singapore-focused partners at international law firms based outside Singapore.

Nearly all of the A-list lawyers are located in the city-state’s central business district. 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 Singapore’s top law firms are on the A-list. These include: Lok Vi Ming, managing director at LVM Law Chambers; Chris Moore, managing partner at Allen & Overy; Bazul Ashhab, managing partner at Oon & Bazul; Sushma Jobanputra, partner-in-charge (Singapore) at Jones Day; Abraham Vergis, managing director at Providence Law Asia; Audrey Yap Su Ming, managing partner at Yusarn Audrey; Krishna Ramachandra, managing director at Duane Morris & Selvam; Deborah Barker, managing partner at KhattarWong; and Stephanie Keen, managing partner at Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee.

High praise aplenty

A-List lawyer Azmul Haque, managing director of Collyer Law, received praise from Akhil Bansal, co-founder of Tres Ventures, India, who says: “We have been impressed by Azmul’s experience in dealing with complex corporate law and contract law-related matters … unlike seasoned lawyers, who may not have had the experience in dealing with complex technology law-related issues, Azmul has hands-on experience with a lot of new tech including blockchain, AI, fintech, etc.”

Paraj Kakkar, director at Assurance Box, Singapore, had this to say about Sunil Rai, a partner at Dentons Rodyk & Davidson: “Sunil is a committed professional and provides astute legal advice. He is practical in his recommendations and works well with colleagues to get things over the line quickly. He is a stickler for timelines and is open to sharing informed views, and is helpful even on matters where he is not billing.”

Singapore lawyersDanny Chua, a senior partner at JTJB Lawyers, received this positive note from Chen Yen Oon, general counsel of IMCPAA Group, Singapore: “Danny is a veteran lawyer who is very knowledgeable and good at advising litigation strategy. At the same time, Danny is able to put clients that are not well versed with legal matters at ease, and guide them through the various pitfalls and intricacies of litigation.” Peter Gercans, a partner at MFB Solicitors, England, adds: “Danny has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the law from which he recalls authorities or regulations at ease. He is very approachable and his response time to urgent queries is hard to beat. A ‘go to’ lawyer for your client’s enforcement issues, particularly on complex and high-value shipping claims.”

Waldersee Chan, assistant general counsel of Guy Carpenter & Company, Singapore, offered this compliment regarding Stanley Lim, a partner at Shook Lin & Bok: “Stanley is one of the sharpest and most talented lawyers that I have come across. Stanley is a no-nonsense lawyer that cuts straight through the legal haze and to the point. Client-oriented and technically sound, Stanley is a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a top-rated legal specialist in the area of banking and finance.”

A-list women lawyers

Sandy Foo, a partner at Rajah & Tann, is described by Victor Chong, vice president of legal & compliance at OUE Lippo Healthcare, Singapore, as a lawyer who “is a versatile corporate lawyer whose forte is in M&A and capital markets”. He adds: “Having deep and extensive knowledge in corporate and finance matters, she is always quick to provide sound advice and guidance at short notice. Her insight, expertise and detail-oriented nature have helped our company complete various cross-border deals in the region successfully in the past couple of years. Our company entrusts Sandy with numerous business transactions each year, and will continue to do so.”

Singapore lawyersAndrew Chow, head of compliance (Southeast Asia) at BNP Paribas in Singapore, describes Sheena Jacob, a director at JurisAsia, as “highly proficient in IP, IT and data privacy, as evidenced by her client base, accolades and board representation”. Tony Fielding, a partner at Gowling WLG’s Dubai branch, adds: “Sheena is an internationally experienced data protection specialist with extensive pan-Asian credentials that few others have in the region. She collaborates internationally with colleagues and illustrates her international approach to delivering to clients with interests not only in the Asia-Pacific, but in global firm colleagues into international delivery where it is to a client’s benefits (cost, as well as legal expertise).”

A good portion of the A-List was filled by Singapore’s leading women lawyers including: Lim Mei, partner, Allen & Gledhill; Lock Yin Mei, partner, Allen & Overy; Lorraine Tay, joint managing partner, Bird & Bird ATMD; Tan Min-Li, partner, CNPLaw; Louise Tan, head of banking and finance, Lee & Lee; Shirin Tang, managing partner, Morrison & Foerster; and Kala Anandarajah, head of competition & antitrust and trade, and lead partner, corporate governance, Rajah & Tann.

Commendation of A-Listers

Faizal Yusmal, the founder of Cycle School Singapore, had this to say about Mohammed Reza, a partner at Simmons & Simons: “Reza digests and analyzes voluminous amounts of complex information in a very short space of time, and his advice is always clear, concise and commercial.”

Mark Worthington, managing director at Klareco Communications, Singapore, commends Tom Platts, a partner at Stephenson Harwood, and says: “[Tom] is an excellent adviser with a keen commercial acumen. Not only does he know corporate law inside out, he takes the time to really understand his clients and their needs. A superb lawyer and a true business partner.”

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

Compiling the A-List

The A-List is based on extensive research conducted by Asia Business Law Journal. For this we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in Singapore and around the world, as well as Singapore-focused partners at international law firms outside of the city-state, and asked them to nominate private practice lawyers including foreign legal consultants, advisers and counsel for the list of Singapore’s top 100 lawyers.

Nominations were made by professionals at a wide range of Singapore and global companies and law firms, including: BNP Paribas; Chipolbal Shipping; Crescent Petroleum; Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas; DBS Bank; the Inland Revnue Authority of Singapore; Leadership Mangeent; Mapletree Investments; Marubeni International Petroleum; OCBC; Rotary Engineering; Scotiabank; Singtel; Sinopec; Standard Chartered Bank; StarHub; Swire Pacific; The American P&I Club; The London P&I Club; United Overseas Bank, and many more. The nominations were supported by detailed research from secondary sources.

The final list reflects the nominations received combined with Asia Business Law Journal editorial team’s more than 30 years of collective experience in documenting and analyzing Singapore’s legal market. All Singaporean 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 editorial 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.

Singapore lawyers