Asia Business Law Journal reveals Malaysia’s best private practice lawyers. Putro Harnowo reports

Malaysia’s dynamic, complex and varied legal landscape, especially for foreigners, makes it imperative for businesses to seek legal assistance when navigating the regulatory environment. To be one of Malaysia’s top 100 lawyers, you must have “a very good grasp of the Malaysian legal system and incisive knowledge of the law”, says Michael Palmer, director at Quahe Woo & Palmer in Singapore, when describing Meng Teck Teh, managing partner at Cheah Teh & Su.

“Meng Teck’s ability in litigation and dispute resolution are among the best in Malaysia and there can be no dispute,” he adds. “However, Meng Teck’s X factor is his winning personality and his ability to address all the issues and concerns of the client.”

A look at the qualities that clients and international peers value most in A-list lawyers shows it is not only their skills in particular areas of law, but also their responsiveness and practical advice in streamlining certain legal documentations and processes.

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).

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Meng Teck’s colleague and senior partner at the firm, Su Tiang Joo, is also praised for being “knowledgeable on construction and infrastructure contract procedures, governing laws, plus the proceeding law cases to back up the subject matter,” says Tan Gek Choon, CEO of One Amerin Residence in Malaysia. “The assistants engaged to assist them are given enough briefings and checks to ensure legal matters are followed through correctly,” she adds.

Su Tiang Joo received praise from several clients for his work. “With his extensive knowledge and exceptional communicative skills, [Su] is able to express himself in a precise manner, offering solutions to any challenging environment,” says one client who chose to remain anonymous. “He never stops thinking and always keeps himself up to date on the latest developments of new law and regulation. He will think for his clients on how to win the case by conducting research studies ahead of his case.”

“DP Naban and Saravana [Kumar Segaran] are the two partners specializing in tax that you must consult if you have tax issues in Malaysia,” says Tan Mui Hiang, general counsel at SP Setia in Malaysia, commending the two lawyers who until recently worked with Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill, and have now set up a new firm, Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership, for their “great outcomes in major tax disputes – I would recommend both partners without hesitation”.

Matthew Skinner, a partner at Jones Day in Singapore, praises Nahendran Navaratnam, head of chambers at Navaratnam Chambers, for his “clear and no-nonsense advice. [Nahendran is an] excellent communicator who is very good strategically, and in court.”

malaysiaTom Platts, head of M&A Southeast Asia at Stephenson Harwood in Singapore, describes Adrian Chee, a partner at Adnan Sundra & Low, as “a strong negotiator and well-versed in Malaysian transactional law”.

“Adrian is an extremely strong corporate finance and M&A lawyer for whom we have a lot of time. He is a strong negotiator, and well versed in Malaysian transactional law. The deals that he has been involved in with us have been large matters, many billions of US dollars.

“He has a strong team who respect him and it is clear that he engages well with clients. We recommend him with no hesitation for this award.”

Jason Humphreys, a partner at Allen & Overy in Singapore, agrees. “[Chee is a] really strong finance lawyer. A perfect fit for lender roles.” Humphreys also praises another Adnan Sundra & Low partner, Adrian Chair, for his “ability to think outside of the box. [Chair] is my go-to projects lawyer, especially for the sponsor side.”

malaysiaMost international clients seek out Malaysian lawyers with experience in advising a wide range of various cross-border transactions and a deep understanding of the latest developments in and out of the country. Interestingly, nearly all of the A-list lawyers are located in the country’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, providing a strategic location to connect to the biggest markets in Asia – China, India and Southeast Asia – and the perfect location for lawyers to have an ear to the ground with regard to regional developments among the financial and sector-specific regulators.

As would be expected, the senior lawyers of Malaysia’s top law firms are on the A-list, including: Ariff Rozhan, managing partner at Ariff Rozhan & Co; Azman bin Othman Luk, managing partner at Rahmat Lim & Partners; Azmi Mohd Ali, senior partner at Azmi & Associates; Belden Premaraj, principal partner at Belden Advocates & Solicitors; Cecil Abraham, senior partner at Cecil Abraham & Partners; Cyrus V Das, founder of Cyrus Das Advocates & Solicitors; DP Naban, senior partner at Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership; Deepak Sadasivan, managing partner at Adnan Sundra & Low; Faisal Moideen, managing partner at Moideen & Max; Iain Sedgley, founder of Sedgley & Co; Nahendran Navaratnam, head of chambers at Navaratnam Chambers; Michael Soo, managing partner at Shook Lin & Bok; and Chung Swee Loong, joint managing partner at Albar & Partners.

A-List women lawyers

Humphreys, at Allen & Overy, describes top lawyer Lilian Liew, head of debt capital markets and structured finance at Zaid Ibrahim & Co, as “very well known in the market, strong technically, and a good finance lawyer”. He also praises Putri Najib, a partner of Adnan Sundra & Low as a “very strong technical lawyer and user friendly”.

Never to be outshone by their male peers, a portion of the A-list was filled by Malaysia’s leading women lawyers including: prominent lawyer and human rights advocate Ambiga Sreenevasan, a founding partner of Sreenevasan; Charmayne Ong, a partner at Skrine who is also a leading figure in intellectual property and technology, media and telecoms advisory; Grace Yeoh, the first female managing partner of Shearn Delamore & Co, who is well known in corporate/M&A and energy, natural resources & green technology; Ira Biswas, a partner at Chooi & Company + Cheang & Ariff Partner, who is commended for her work in dispute resolution, commercial fraud and company law litigation; Karen Abraham, a partner at Shearn Delamore & Co with more than 25 years’ experience in IP law; Chew Kherk Ying, a partner at Wong & Partners with 30 years’ experience in IP enforcement and litigation; Salwah Abdul Shukor, senior partner and head of the corporate department and intellectual property at Zain & Co; and Sharon Tan, a partner at Zaid Ibrahim & Co who specializes in competition issues across various industries.

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; Bird & Bird; SapuraOMV Upstream; United Nations Environment Programme; Jones Day; Withers KhattarWong; Diageo; Temokin Development; Stephenson Harwood; Oon & Bazul; Rentokil Initial (M); Petroliam Nasional; Carestream Health; Pinsent Masons MPillay; SP Setia; 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 analysing 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.