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Asia Business Law Journal reveals the leading talent in Singapore’s legal profession. Lim Miran and Nguyen Yen report

Singapore’s 2023 economic landscape presented a dynamic mix of resilience and opportunities. Despite global economic pressures that reverberated across trade-dependent economies, Singapore showcased a remarkable recovery in the latter part of the year. The manufacturing sector, in particular, showed indications of resurrection: there was a substantial year-on-year growth of 2.8% in the fourth quarter of 2023, above experts’ forecasts. This strong momentum led to the year’s total economic growth of 1.2%; solid but a moderation from the previous year’s 3.6% expansion.

While export-led sectors slowed and housing costs rose, Singapore’s services and tourist industries expanded, pointing to a more diverse economic environment. Furthermore, the country’s relentless efforts in reopening borders after covid-19 lockdowns, and expanding trade ties with Malaysia, aided its economic recovery. As observers anticipate a prosperous 2024, Singapore’s versatility and adaptability in dealing with global issues position it well.

On the legal front, significant developments have taken place. In October 2023, the Singapore Parliament approved the Free Trade Zones (Amendment) Bill, which is an important step towards enhancing commodity monitoring as goods pass through free trade zones. This amendment seeks a balance between promoting efficient goods movement and strengthening regulatory surveillance.

Singapore has also implemented the Eligibility Criteria under the International Carbon Credit (ICC) Framework, which aligns with the government’s commitment to environmental sustainability. This system enables carbon-tax-compliant businesses to use liable ICCs to offset up to 5% of their taxable emissions.

Another notable legislative milestone occurred in November 2023, when the Singapore Parliament had the first reading of the Investments Review Bill. This bill, signed into law on 9 January 2024, introduces a new investment management framework to protect Singapore’s national security interests. The act establishes restrictions for major investments in key enterprises, with the goal of regulating both local and international investors to preserve Singapore’s crucial assets.

Against this challenging yet exciting backdrop, Asia Business Law Journal presents its A-List of 100 lawyers notable for their adherence to best practices in Singapore. The A-List is the result of extensive research and nominations from in-house counsel – primarily those in Singapore but also Singapore-focused partners at international law firms.

Client comments underscore their preference for lawyers who exhibit a proactive dedication to going above and beyond, all while providing grounded, practical advice to guide companies through the intricate legal landscape of Singapore.

Financial maestros

As a global financial powerhouse, Singapore serves as a hub for top legal professionals in finance and capital markets. Singapore’s reputation for a strong legal system, expertise in international transactions, and a focus on regulatory compliance attracts some of the world’s most accomplished lawyers in the field, providing unparalleled expertise and innovative solutions to complex financial issues.

Stanley Lim, partner at Shook Lin & Bok, is one of them. He is nominated by Helen Tham, senior vice president, business development, commercial banking at United Overseas Bank (UOB).

“Stanley is always willing to go the extra mile to provide guidance to bank officers who are not legally trained, like myself, even though there is no formal appointment yet,” says Tham.

Stanley Lim is also referred to as “a go-to lawyer for banking transactions in Singapore” by Choon Searn Kua, legal counsel at Mizuho Bank’s Singapore branch.

“Stanley is easy to work with, always reachable, and willing to provide effective and concise advice at a market competitive price,” he says.

Jamie Benson, partner at Duane Morris & Selvam, is recommended by his peer, Lionel D’Almeida, partner at the corporate law firm AZB & Partners in Mumbai, India.

“Jamie is a ‘go-to’ for any high-pressure capital markets deal. His level of involvement, ability to deliver, and wealth of experience are a fairly unique combination of facets that he brings to the table,” he says.

Jitesh Shahani, partner at Indian law firm S&R Associates, agrees. “With sound fundamentals, awareness of the latest trends, and a grasp over issues prevalent in the Indian capital markets, Jamie conducts his practice of law in the humblest manner possible. Jamie’s technical knowledge reflects his several years of experience, and he is able to deliver to clients what they need commercially without compromising on legal requirements.”

Varoon Chandra, senior partner at law firm AZB & Partners in Mumbai, India, also supports Benson. “Jamie Benson is a very practical and results oriented lawyer. He knows how to get tough deals done in the correct way and is always a pleasure to have on a transaction,” says Chandra.

Nadijah Tambiah, John Keells Group

With years of experience in banking, finance and restructuring, Jamie Thomas, partner at Gibson Dunn, is highly regarded by his clients. Nadija Tambiah, head of the legal and company secretarial functions of the John Keells Group, one of the largest conglomerate companies in Sri Lanka, has this to say about Thomas.

“Jamie Thomas has worked with the John Keells Group on several transactions, and we have found his advice to be prompt and pragmatic from a business perspective. His valuable inputs in the strategic structuring of our deals and his participation in negotiations have always added crucial value. He has a deep knowledge of lending frameworks, both from a commercial and development perspective, and his ability to communicate the bigger picture has been instrumental in successfully completing several transactions.”

Thomas also receives compliments from Arief Sentana, vice president of private equity firm I Squared Capital in Singapore.

“Jamie worked closely to support Asianet, an ISQ portfolio company, on the recent IDR1.5 trillion financing in Indonesia for the purpose of asset acquisition. With a tight timeline, Jamie and his team worked very quickly (without compromising on quality and detail) to help us reach an agreed position with the banks. He also keeps the client’s cost considerations in mind and helps manage the process efficiently, allowing us to work within the budget and still achieve most of the desired outcomes.”

For Danielle Goodwin, director at Australia-based luxury handbags, accessories, and clothing company Hawkeye Vintage, the services provided by Dentons Rodyk senior partner, Sivagnanaratnam Sivanesan, are second to none. “Absolutely the best service in the world! He goes above and beyond to assist in many aspects and offers more than one service to clients. He is also very genuine in helping with all matters.”

Rajeev Gupta, CFO at digital bank UNObank Group headquarters in Singapore, also speaks highly of S Sivanesan, praising his exceptional dedication, expertise, and unwavering commitment. “His deep understanding of the legal intricacies surrounding the deal, coupled with his ability to navigate complex challenges, was nothing short of extraordinary. His exemplary performance reflects not only on Dentons but also on the standards of excellence that our organisation values,” says Gupta.

Rajeev Gupta, UNObank Group Headquarters

Ananda Mohan Bhaskar, business development director at the Singapore-based sourcing and marketing company for various commodities, raw materials, and chemicals, Pacific Commodities Exchange, commends S Sivanesan for his advice in various matters. “With deep international experience in cross-border M&A, forming joint venture partnerships, providing country- and sector-specific legal advice, and advising on risks and pitfalls in specific situations, he is proactive on all matters and builds strong relationships to successfully deliver client objectives.”

Corporate allies

In Singapore’s intricate business terrain, adept lawyers stand out as indispensable allies, skilfully navigating firms through legal intricacies while bolstering their standing in competitive markets. Going beyond conventional legal support, their symbiotic relationship with businesses fosters strategic alliances that propel firms toward resilience and profitability in an ever-evolving landscape.

Renowned for his persuasive litigation tactics, Mohammed Reza, partner at Simmons & Simmons JWS consistently delivers impressive results. He is highly recommended by Wayne Koh, strategic partner business director at the business enterprise software company SAP.

“Reza is absolutely stellar in terms of litigation tactics and strategy, and also from an advocacy perspective. Behind his easy charming manner is a brilliant brain,” Koh says.

Reza also leaves a lasting impression on a senior regulatory manager at an Australian multinational banking and financial services company. “Reza is a delight and so easy to work with. He’s warm, friendly and disarmingly bright. He’s also very quick to master the detail in a case.”

Raj Nair, director at business advisory company Solvent stands behind Reza’s nomination. “Reza’s strategic sense is second-to-none. He possesses frightening intelligence and a great sense of judgement. He always takes into account the client’s commercial strategy, promoting a sensible and pragmatic approach throughout.”

Another lawyer who has earned a well-deserved reputation for his litigation skills is Suresh Divyanathan, partner at Oon & Bazul. According to Anthonia Hui, CEO/head of Singapore at the global wealth and alternatives manager company AlTi Tiedemann Global, Divyanathan is “one of the best litigation/arbitration lawyers”. “He approaches each case from angles that many would overlook and provides strong arguments to assess the case’s viability and explore opportunities for an amicable settlement,” she says.

In the realm of shipping, international trade and logistics, John Sze, managing partner at JTJB, stands out from the crowd. Shuhei Kawada, director at Ciel Shipping, wholeheartedly endorses Sze, stating, “We have a longstanding relationship with Mr John, and he has consistently proven to be one of the most trustworthy business partners. His responses to our requests are always prompt, and his flexibility in handling matters is greatly appreciated.”

An internal legal counsel at a multinational energy company located in Latin America, who wants to remain anonymous, shares the same sentiment. “John is a highly skilled professional in shipping law. His extensive expertise and knowledge in this area enable him to provide exceptional legal advice and representation to his clients. In addition to his legal abilities, John’s calm demeanour and confident nature instil a sense of security in his clients. He effectively communicates his legal opinions, ensuring that his clients feel informed and well-guided throughout the legal process.”

Yeong Hui Yap, a partner at the commercial law firm Chooi & Company in Malaysia, echoes this sentiment. “John is hardworking and committed to providing solutions to his clients. He has the ability to distil convoluted legal matters into practical solutions. John’s cleverness, hard work, and practicality make him a legal force to be reckoned with.”

Within the sphere of trust, asset and wealth management practice, Tan Woon Hum, partner at Shook Lin & Bok, is a highly regarded figure. Li Choo Sin, executive director at financial services company Perpetual Asia, strongly advocates for his recognition as a top lawyer.

“Woon Hum is articulate and a subject matter expert in trust-related matters. He provides clear and concise opinions when required. He is also commercial, practical and generous with his time and advice. He is a well-respected practitioner in wealth management and trust-related legal matters,” says Li.

Vincent Tan, managing director at the Singapore-based asset management firm New Dimensions Capital, describes Tan as “a highly proficient lawyer who excels in attention to detail and demonstrates exceptional customer service skills can be described as meticulous, thorough, and client-focused”.

“This exemplary lawyer possesses a keen eye for detail, meticulously examining every facet of legal matters with precision and thoroughness. Clients benefit not only from their sharp legal acumen but also from the unwavering dedication to providing unparalleled customer service,” says Tan.

Joyce Su, executive director for Harbourview Investment, an asset management company based in Singapore, highlights Tan’s significant contributions to the legal community.

“Tan has demonstrated leadership within the legal community, whether through mentoring junior lawyers, participating in professional associations, or contributing to legal publications. His leadership qualities inspire others and contribute to the growth of the legal field. His in-depth knowledge across various legal domains consistently proves invaluable in providing sound advice and achieving successful outcomes for clients,” she says.

Another prominent figure in the A-List is Edric Pan, joint deputy managing partner at Dentons Rodyk. His recognition has garnered support from Jeffrey Hong, general manager at New Power Worldwide, a global independent distributor of electronic components and finished goods.

“Edric is a superb lawyer who has demonstrated remarkable skill, professionalism, and dedication in his practice. Not only is he knowledgeable and strategic, but he is also compassionate and supportive. He truly deserves this recognition,” says Hong.

Lionel Goh, director at the logistics provider Protinus in Singapore, shares the same opinion. “Edric’s demeanour and character not only inspire confidence but also reinforce my unwavering trust in his profound legal acumen and capabilities. Edric possesses an unparalleled ability to attentively listen and skilfully articulate the core of my thoughts, elevating the communication of complex legal matters to a level of clarity that is truly exceptional. His prowess in understanding and conveying intricate legal nuances sets him apart as a deserving candidate for this prestigious recognition.”

Prabhu Jayaseelan, ProFin claims manager at the independent insurance brokerage Lockton Companies in Singapore, describes Edric Pan as “an outstanding lawyer with an eye for detail”. Jayaseelan adds, “He is extremely efficient and possesses a commercially realistic approach. Edric is always available to answer questions and provides unwavering support to his clients, regardless of the time of day.”

Hemamalini Manogaran, an IP specialist at Gateway IP Services in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, speaks highly of Max Ng, managing director at Gateway Law Corporation.

“Max Ng not only excels in legal practice but also embodies the qualities that define a truly global legal expert. His inclusion among the globally ranked lawyers will further enhance the prestige of the legal community,” she says.

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 abillion, ADNOC, Aglaia Family Office, Algorand Foundation, AlTi Global, ArbLit, Asia Cargo Network, Aspire, Asyad Group, Atlas Unitrade, AZB & Partners, Bank of Singapore, Bukalapak, Bynd Artisan, Chooi & Co, Cloud Kinetics, Collyer Capital, Credit Suisse, Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, Dentsu, DP Architects, DrGL, Dryllerakis & Associates, EbixCash, EDP Renewables, EFA Invest, ElevateBio, Ericsenz Capital, EXS Capital, EY, Eywa Media, Freo, Gentree Fund, Gibson Dunn, Gojek Singapore, Golden Gate Ventures, HarbourVest Partners, Hawkeye Vintage, HSBC, I Squared Capital, IAM Asia Capital, IDEM Hospitality, In Situ Design, Inventus Law, J. Sagar Associates, JAR Wealth Management, JLL, John Keells Holdings, Jupiter Law Partners, KBI Consulting, Khaitan & Co, KPMG Law, Liberty Insurance, Lloyd Laboratories, Lockton, Love Bonito, Mainspring Energy, Marubeni International Petroleum, Matrixport, Mizuho Bank, MS First Capital, NAVER Corp, Neptune Energy, New Dimensions Capital, Ninja Van, Oceanpayment, Omni Bridgeway, PayMongo, PayPal, Perpetual Asia, Pillar Legal, Pine Energy, PwC, PTT International Trading, QOOS, Quadria Capital, Radiant World, Rapiscan Systems, RedGirraffe, Respiree, Revvity,, S&R Associates, Shangri-La Asia, Siddiqsons Tin Plate, SIG Combibloc, Singtel, SK Gas, SoftBank Ventures Asia, Sompo Insurance, State Street, Straits, Synpulse Singapore, TeamStreamz, TNBAura, Traveazy Group, Trident Corporation, Trina Solar, Tunç Fırat Dereli Attorney Partnership, TurtleTree, UMBRA, Unilever, UOB, UNOAsia, Verite Partners, Walkers, Westpac, Whirlpool, Willis Towers Watson, Xpdite Capital, Zodiac Milpro, 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.

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