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Following an extensive nomination process, Asia Business Law Journal unveils the top performers of the country’s legal profession. Nguyen Yen and Lim Miran report
Singapore is renowned as being ideally located for companies looking to expand into the region. A legal system highly regarded for its stability, consistency and robustness makes it a destination of choice for international dispute resolution, fostering an ecosystem for legal professionals to assist businesses with a wide array of services.
Coupled with its pro-business and investor-friendly environment, the Lion City is also an Asian financial capital. However, with a growing number of ultra-wealthy individuals, the government plans to raise taxes for buyers of higher-value properties and luxury cars to tackle the wealth gap.
Recognising an increasing need for a financial sector-wide regulatory approach, the Singapore parliament passed an omnibus legislation called the Financial Services and Markets Bill in April 2022 to enhance the regulator’s agility and effectiveness in a rapidly changing environment, including imposing licence requirements for all crypto businesses based in the country. As global demand dwindles and inflationary pressures mount, the International Monetary Fund has lowered its forecast for Singapore’s economy to grow by 1.5% this year, lower than its 3.8% growth last year. To tame inflation, the central bank is tightening monetary policy by raising its benchmark interest rate.
Such changes in the business and legal environment make it imperative for companies to seek guidance from accomplished lawyers who can help them scan the horizon and make the right decisions. Against this backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of the top 100 lawyers practising in Singapore.
The A-List is based on extensive research conducted and nominations received from in-house counsel based in Singapore and elsewhere, as well as partners at international law firms.
Comments submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by clients suggest that they look for lawyers who not only have commercial awareness but are also willing to go the extra mile and get down to the nitty-gritty of the case, while harnessing new technology for the best results.
As a global business hub, Singapore is home to some of the largest companies in the region. Many lawyers in the island-state have made a name for themselves as specialised experts in various industry sectors and practice areas.
In banking and finance matters, Shook Lin & Bok partner Stanley Lim is praised by Kevin Yong, head of legal and compliance at Mizuho Bank in Singapore, for his ability to manage complex financing matters with ease, and in a value-added manner.
“Stanley takes a commercial approach and has no qualms about providing training to the legal team so they can gain a better understanding,” says Yong.
Kevin Choo, business manager at United Overseas Bank in Singapore, concurs: “Stanley is knowledgeable in his field of work and able to give concrete advice on legal matters.”
Jamie Benson, a partner at Duane Morris & Selvam, is praised as “an expert on IP for broadcast rights” by Josh Burack, senior consultant at international advertising company Dentsu in Singapore, for assisting the company in the contractual process for Olympic Games distribution across Asia since 2014.
“These contracts are particularly long, complex and nuanced from market to market,” says Burack.
“It takes a very experienced and specialised attorney to handle these agreements that each range in the millions of dollars, and James continues to serve all stakeholders with the highest levels of professionalism.”
Kala Anandarajah, a partner at Rajah & Tann, is commended for being well-known in competition law, as nominated by Andrew Ong, head of legal and compliance at elevator engineering company KONE in Singapore. “Kala has excellent knowledge of the competition laws and regulations across the Asia-Pacific,” says Ong. “She understands the business needs of our company and has helped in various ways.”
How Way Meng, Asia-Pacific general manager at Swire Energy Services in Kuala Lumpur, nominates JTJB’s managing partner, Murali Pany, for “being professional and having excellent advisory skills”. Rudy Ng, managing director at engineering and construction solutions company Re-Plan in Singapore, appreciates Pany’s dedication. “Murali has excellent judgement in understanding various legal situations, and is responsible towards every decision he makes,” says Ng. “Murali has been supportive even in small legal cases and has used his own time to explain the legal aspects to a layman like me.”
Edric Pan, a deputy managing partner at Dentons Rodyk, is recommended by James Lindfelt, director at PayPal in California, for “providing excellent strategic advice to ensure proper management of risk”.
Although Singapore saw last year’s M&A activity fall below the record-breaking deals in 2021 as markets grew turbulent, the numbers were roughly in line with pre-pandemic levels, with a concentration on bigger conglomerates. Comments from clients show that the A-List lawyers have become trusted counsel for getting the best possible outcome in the deals.
Sivi Sivanesan, senior partner at Dentons Rodyk, is highly regarded by longstanding client Samuel Lim, the CEO of live stream services provider Livecommerce Entertainment in Singapore, as his go-to lawyer for more than 12 years for corporate M&A matters, IPOs and capital markets.
“I have found him to be able to understand the client’s goals and pursue creative ways to negotiate the desired outcome,” says Lim. “I feel at ease having him represent me, even when I am not in meetings, to negotiate on my behalf.
“More importantly, he is a sincere lawyer who seeks to build long-term relationships with clients and later become their friends, unlike some lawyers who view the job as having a more transactional nature.”
Alex Manoukian, director of taxation and treasury at self-serve advertising platform StackAdapt in Toronto, agrees. “From recommending colleagues in his extensive network to offering practical suggestions on various business and legal issues, to even helping us source local bank accounts, I feel confident to trust advice from Sivi Sivanesan and the Dentons team,” says Manoukian. “They are also always prompt to respond and act in a very professional and courteous manner.”
Sivanesan is also complimented by Enrico Cesenni, founder and CEO of investment company Asia Strategic Holdings in Singapore, for “being a trusted adviser for more than a decade, always providing high-quality legal counsel on a range of topics and jurisdictions. His leadership has been instrumental in the regional growth of our group,” adds Cesenni.
Another well-known lawyer in the M&A field is Lam Shiao Ning, managing director at Rubicon Law, who is nominated for her 20 years’ experience in M&A and corporate finance practice by Chris Flosi, general counsel at Singapore-based private equity fund manager firm Northstar Advisors.
“Shiao Ning has substantial experience in Singapore corporate and M&A,” says Flosi. “She gives practical advice, manages costs well and is very pleasant to work with.”
Nicholas Loh, managing director of international markets and group legal at consumer healthcare company Eu Yan Sang International in Singapore, also recommends Lam as “very responsive, and exhibiting a very high level of professionalism”.
“She has taken time to deeply understand our business, and provides us with timely, clear and very sound legal advice based on commercial realities,” adds Loh.
Todd Esposito, the group chief finance officer at digital bank Tonik Financial in Singapore, thanks Lam for her leadership that helped Tonik successfully raise more than USD150 million of capital funding in two years.
“In 2022, Tonik Financial raised more than USD100 million, thanks to Lam Shiao Ning for leading the negotiations and preparing all legal documents,” says Esposito.
With its prime location at the heart of Asia and well-developed infrastructure, it is no wonder that Singapore has grown into a regional tech powerhouse. Lawyers need to embrace modern tools to stay ahead of competitive markets and give clients added value for enhanced efficiency.
Dentons Rodyk partner Lawrence Teh “embraces new technology and does not use old technology that increases legal fees and decreases the speed of litigation,” says Hanif Nomanbhoy, director at Singapore-based spice trading company Nomanbhoy & Sons. “He understands that planning is just as important as execution, and is also sustainable and effective so that parties can work together in the long run.”
Mohammed Reza, a partner at Simmons & Simmons, is recommended by Gary Ma, chief operating officer at blockchain technology company BLMP in Singapore, for mastering his area of legal practice while also being a tech-savvy lawyer. “He is very knowledgeable in emerging technologies, and an honest and direct service provider with great results,” says Ma.
Chou Tzu, senior manager of regulatory change and governance at Westpac Banking Corporation in Singapore, appreciates Reza for being very effective in his advocacy. “He has immense gravitas in the courtroom and at the negotiation table,” says Tzu. “He has a very safe pair of hands.”
Reza also receives high compliments from Wayne Koh, strategic partner business director at multinational software company SAP in Singapore. “A phenomenal advocate with superb judgement,” says Koh.
Aloysius Wee, the managing partner at Aquinas Law Alliance, receives a thumbs-up from his client, Yong Chun Tieng, president of e-sport company Cyberathlete in Singapore. “Aloysius has provided excellent professional legal advice and services to my company over the years,” says Yong. “He has personally put in detailed attention to the many complex contracts of my company, which resulted in an excellent outcome.”
Kevin Yuan, a senior legal consultant at mobile communication network construction services provider Sunwave Communications in Singapore, also gives credit to Wee. “Beside his depth of legal knowledge, Aloysius is extremely helpful and willing to go the extra mile in offering practical solutions for clients.”
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 Singapore, we turned to thousands of in-house counsel in Singapore 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 Singapore and global companies, financial institutions and law firms including Advance.AI, AlixPartners, Anji Microelectronics, Arc & Co, Asia Strategic Holdings, Asiaciti Trust, Asiatic Lloyd, Atradius, Bitdeer Group, BitGo, Blackrun Partners, BLMP, Bureau Plattner, Butterfield Group, CMTi Technologies, Cyberathlete, DBS Private Bank, Dentsu, DigiAsia, Equiom, ESR Group, Eu Yan Sang International, Eurofins, EverEdge, Fleet Hamburg, FTI Consulting, Gojek Singapore, Gryphus Capital, H&C Logistic Incorporated, Hengyi Industries, HSBC Private Banking, IQ-EQ, JLL, Julius Baer, KONE, Legacy Wealth Advisors, Livecommerce Entertainment, Lockton, Lumen Technologies, Medco Energi, Meritor, Mizuho Bank, Netzon, Nomanbhoy & Sons, Northstar Advisors, OC Digital, OCBC Bank, Omni Bridgeway, PayPal, Pressio Global, Provident Growth, Re-Plan, Roland Investment Holding, RSM Singapore, SABIC, SAP Asia, Schmid Frank Rechtsanwälte, Schroders Capital, Singapore Airlines, Singtel, Solvent Advisory Services, SP Manufacturing, St James’s Place Wealth Management, StackAdapt, Sunwave Communications, Swire Energy Services, Temasek, Tigerhall, Tonik Financial, Trident Trust, Trust Bank Singapore, UBS, United Overseas Bank, UOL Group, Vistra, Westpac Banking Corporation, Yondr Singapore, Zipmex, and many more. The nomination 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 Singapore’s legal market. All Singapore 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 allowed 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.