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Singapore: Legal Marketplace Analysis

Inspired by our recent research into the market, we single out four highly regarded national firms and 15 leading international and specialist firms who are considered the most significant players in the Singaporean legal market based on feedback from thousands of private practitioners and in-house counsel around the world.

Rajah & Tann | Allen & Gledhill | Drew & Napier | WongPartnership | Clifford Chance | Bird & Bird | Dentons Rodyk | Withers KhattarWong | Norton Rose Fulbright | Ashurst | Morgan Lewis Stamford | Latham & Watkins | Clayton Utz | Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer | Holman Fenwick Willan | Walkers | Herbert Smith Freehills | King & Spalding | Pinsent Masons MPillay

National Firms

Rajah & Tann

Winner of our 2015 Singapore Law Firm of the Year Award, Rajah & Tann is one of the largest full-service firms in the jurisdiction, and counts over 300 lawyers among its ranks. It offers a full range of commercial services to its clients and benefits from its Asia network to service clients from across the region.

The TMT practice advises a range of state governments, statutory boards and multinational companies in the telecommunications, computer hardware and software sectors and is led by the “exceptional” Rajesh Sreenivasan. The team is well versed in matters including infrastructure, procurement, regulatory issues and data protection compliance and has been engaged in a number of landmark deals over the past decade. Sreenivasan boasts over 15 years of experience and advises clients on matters relating to data protection, electronic commerce, IT contracts and digital forensics and media. Lau Kok Keng leads the intellectual property, sports and gaming practices and handles IT disputes, transactional and advisory work. He is seen as a “consummate professional” by our sources.

The employment and executive compensation team is widely acclaimed for its specialist practice, which covers the full spectrum of work including appointments, terminations, confidentiality, compensation, restructuring and contentious matters. Head of the corporate and transactional practice, Abdul Jabbar Bin Karam Din boasts a “wealth of expertise” in the transfer of businesses and undertakings and partnership agreements. Francis Xavier SC is an “outstanding litigator” and is similarly highly regarded for his arbitration practice. Desmond Wee enjoys a “sterling reputation” for his non-contentious employment and benefits work.

Clients of the M&A practice group range from SMEs to listed multinational companies and the team fields an impressive number of individuals who are well versed in advising on high-profile, complex and challenging matters. Among its significant deals, members have acted for AXA in its acquisition of the general insurance business of the HSBC group in a multi-jurisdictional deal covering Singapore and Hong Kong.

Chia Kim Huat works regularly in the Asia-Pacific region and is praised for his “tremendous understanding” of cases involving infrastructure projects, township development, hotel management and business trusts. Danny Ong is a “stand-out” practitioner who is famed for his work in the asset recovery field.

Allen & Gledhill

Founded in 1902, Allen & Gledhill quickly made its way to the forefront of the Singaporean market, and now enjoys a position as one of the leading national firms. In an effort to expand its reach across the region, the firm has established three associate firms in Malaysia, Myanmar and Laos and is a “top choice” for many regional and international players.

Banking and finance is one of the firm’s main strengths, and the team is able to advise on a variety of complex, cutting-edge transactions in acquisitions, property, infrastructure, asset, and tax structured financing among others. Chee Wai Kok acts for lenders and major corporates on domestic and cross-border syndicated loans, structured and acquisition financing and debt restructuring and enjoys an “excellent reputation” in the field. Chairman and senior partner Lucien Wong boasts decades of experience and is a “true senior statesman” according to our sources. His “internationally renowned” practice encompasses banking, corporate and financial services work. Eugene Ooi is “greatly respected” for his work on general, private and commercial banking matters, as is Mark Hudspeth.

Capital markets is also a strong area for the firm and practitioners have been involved in a number of first-of-its-kind transactions in Singapore. Margaret Chin is considered a “doyen” of the debt capital markets scene and has significant experience in a range of debt offerings including vanilla bond issues, medium term note programmes and hybrid instruments. Jerry Koh “excels” in the private equity field and regularly advises on complex securitisation and structured finance transactions.

The firm’s corporate team is also well regarded in the market and its expertise encompasses general corporate and regulatory issues, reorganisations and restructurings. Andrew Lim co-heads the M&A practice and boasts a “wealth of expertise” in cross-border mergers and acquisitions, domestic and regional joint ventures, and reconstruction and amalgamation.

The real estate team is made up of a number of “superb” lawyers who provide advice on the Singapore REIT market and property business trusts. Head of the corporate real estate practice, Penny Goh is a “leading authority” in Singapore and acts for public-listed corporations, institutional investors, private equity property funds and real estate investment trusts.

Drew & Napier

Drew & Napier is a leading firm in the Singaporean market and provides legal assistance to clients ranging from government departments and multinational corporations to small enterprises and private individuals. The firm is known for its “world class expertise” across a range of practice areas including corporate, commercial and dispute resolution.

In the area of litigation, Drew & Napier is a “leading light”. Lawyers are regularly appointed to handle high-profile contentious and complex matters and have represented major financial institutions and multinational construction and energy companies. Cavinder Bull SC is a “pre-eminent” practitioner who engages in trial and appellate advocacy at all levels of the Singapore courts. He is also recommended for his arbitration work. CEO Davinder Singh SC is a “famous name” in the field with an active litigation and arbitration practice involving complex commercial disputes in multiple jurisdictions. Hri Kumar Nair SC boasts a “prestigious practice” and is experienced in cases involving banking, trusts, libel, corporate, shareholder disputes, insolvency and professional negligence. He is also recognised for his capacity in the investigations sphere.

The firm’s intellectual property department is also “well regarded” in the market and a number of individuals are highlighted for their expertise. Head of the healthcare and life sciences practice, Tony Yeo is “revered” for his active litigation practice. His “impressive client roster” includes the likes of Aventis Pharma, Sanofi and Novartis. Benjamin Gaw is a product liability and regulatory “specialist” and is vastly experienced advising clients in the technology, biotechnology, health and pharmaceutical industries. Dedar Singh Gill is the “go-to” for trademarks in Singapore and has handled a number of high-profile matters. Consultant John Morris is also “highly proficient” in the field.

WongPartnership

One of Singapore’s foremost law firms, WongPartnership provides “first-class” advice in all aspects of business law to a variety of domestic and international clients. With a presence in Abu Dhabi, Beijing, Shanghai, Yangon, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur the firm is able to provide a truly regional practice for its clients across the ASEAN region.

The firm has been at the forefront of the Singaporean construction market for a number of years. The breadth of the expertise allows the team to handle both contentious and non-contentious work and they work with clients on construction-related projects in Asia and the Middle East. Meng Meng Wong SC demonstrates “tremendous understanding” of the area and is considered a “statesman” in Singapore. Christopher Chuah is a “leading individual” and specialises in front-end drafting and advice, and construction disputes. Alvin Yeo SC is a “major player” in the market and chairman and senior partner of the firm. His notable experience includes acting for the Independent State of Papua New Guinea in successfully defeating the claim brought against it in an ICSID arbitration.

The expertise of the capital markets team covers debt and equity fundraisings, as well as structured finance. Members advise issuers and underwriters on public and private placements. Gail Ong heads the equity capital markets practice and has been involved in a number of significant initial public offerings. She is praised for her “business acumen” and “no-nonsense approach”. Joint managing partner, Rachel Eng is an “expert” on Regulation S and Rule 144A offerings and advises clients on their offerings on the Singapore Exchange.

Banking and finance is another strong performing area. Lawyers in this field specialise in structuring, documenting and advising on various types of finance transactions. Clients “would not hesitate to recommend” Susan Wong thanks to her 29 years of experience. Her clients include domestic and foreign banks, financial institutions and major corporates. Alvin Chia boasts “intricate knowledge” of syndicated loans and trade financing and is noted for his “calm demeanour”.

Andre Maniam SC heads the litigation and dispute resolution team and is considered a “formidable opponent in court”. He has litigated on a number of matters including corporate disputes, cross-border trade and insolvency and construction.

International and Specialist Firms

Clifford Chance

Having opened its Singapore office in 1981, Clifford Chance has grown from strength to strength and now counts over 80 lawyers at its Singapore base. With a Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licence, the firm is permitted to practise and advise on both international and Singaporean law and combines local and international talent across all its key practice areas. In 2012 the firm established a foreign law alliance with Cavenagh Law in order to expand its litigation capabilities, and as a result has been a party to a number of the most high-profile and complex disputes.

The firm’s banking and finance team is “unsurpassed” in terms of international expertise. Andrew Brereton is a “great operator” in the Asia-Pacific region and boasts over 15 years of experience in acquisition finance, structured lending, syndicated loans and reserve-based financing. The “talented” Andrew Gambarini is well versed in matters involving leverage financing, acquisition financing and export credit financing. Nicholas Wong is also “well known” for his project financing work in the energy sector.

The energy and resources group comprises mining and metals, oil and gas, and power, and is highly regarded for its capabilities in this sphere. Geraint Hughes leads the Asia-Pacific branch and is a “firm favourite” for clients based in the region and elsewhere. He represents a range of sponsor, fund and lender clients including advising Shell on a variety of downstream divestments across more than 20 countries.

Bird & Bird

Bird & Bird established a presence in Singapore in 2009 through an association with a leading local firm. Its integrated one-firm approach allows it to work closely with the other offices in the region and further abroad. As elsewhere, the office has a sector-focused practice and individual lawyers are members of a number of “market-leading” practice groups.

Known for its intellectual property work worldwide, it comes as no surprise that the trademarks group is one of the most highly regarded in Singapore. Alban Kang is considered a “world-class” IP specialist and represents major software companies, computer manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and advertising agencies, among others. His senior status at the bar is compounded by the “impressive depth of expertise” he displays in complex IP litigation and advisory matters. Lorraine Tay is another “excellent” practitioner who focuses on non-contentious and general advisory work. She is known for her “meticulous nature” and “solutions-oriented approach”, which is much welcomed by her clients.

Founding partner Susan de Silva heads the employment group and services clients in Singapore and the rest of Asia-Pacific. She is considered an “expert” in assisting technology companies on HR issues and also excels in the franchising field.

Dentons Rodyk

Longstanding full-service Singaporean firm Rodyk & Davidson last year merged with global powerhouse Dentons as part of the latter’s strategic growth in the Asia Pacific region. With over 200 lawyers, provides “excellent” advice in all aspects of business law to a variety of domestic and international clients. The firm is split into five core practices: corporate, finance, intellectual property and technology, litigation and arbitration, and real estate; and lawyers from the firm’s offices in Singapore, Shanghai and Jakarta are well placed to provide services to clients across the region, while the recent addition of Denton’s extensive 125-office network gives the firm a truly international outlook.

Dentons Rodyk has a “formidable reputation” for its arbitration work and offers the full spectrum of services including drafting, advising on arbitrator appointments and advising and representing clients at hearings. Lawrence Teh is praised for his “comprehensive knowledge” of the transport sector, in which he regularly advises and acts before the arbitral tribunals and also in the courts. Managing partner Philip Jeyaretnam SC has a “truly global footprint” and represents clients in arbitration proceedings in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, London, Zurich and Brunei. He is the “go-to guy” for construction-related disputes.

The firm is also home to a number of franchising and licensing experts who are well versed in all the advisory, documentation and representation services involved in franchise development. Woon Chooi Yew is a “leading light” in the industry and boasts a “wealth of expertise and experience” in commercial transactions relating to franchising.

The commercial litigation team is “greatly admired” in Singapore and comprises a number of “first-class” practitioners who frequently act in complex cross-border claims including conflict of laws and jurisdictional disputes. Vi Ming Lok SC boasts an “impressive track record” in his contentious practice, and is particularly active in the aviation and insurance fields.

In the information technology sphere Gilbert Leong is an “accomplished” lawyer with extensive experience in negotiating and drafting commercial agreements in relation to the distribution of goods and services. He is “trusted adviser” to a number of companies in the telecommunications sector.

Withers KhattarWong

In April 2015 international firm Withers created a formal law alliance with Singaporean firm KhattarWong, thus establishing an “internationally renowned” practice with the ability to provide Singapore, UK and US legal services to clients worldwide.

In the private client sphere, the firm is “undoubtedly one of the best in the business”. Lawyers are able to advise on trusts, lasting powers of attorney, wills and succession planning as well as contentious and non-contentious matters. Deborah Barker SC is recognised for her expertise in asset recovery, and her high profile practice in trust claims and property related matters. Jay Krause heads the wealth planning group in Asia and is a “pleasure to work with” according to our sources. He specialises in cross-border tax efficient wealth, business and inheritance structuring. Philip Munro is known for the “bespoke solutions” he provides to international families requiring succession planning expertise.

Sports law is another field in which the firm excels. Clients include government agencies, international federations and national sport associations and the team can handle a wide range of sports-related legal issues. Annabel Pennefather is considered “a go to figure”.

Gerallt Owen boasts a “stellar reputation” in Singapore and abroad thanks to his “great flair” and “strategic approach”. He is much in demand for his abilities in investigations, business crime defence and asset recovery matters.

Norton Rose Fulbright

Norton Rose Fulbright enjoys an enviable position in the Singaporean market thanks to its history in the region and “ability to handle all manner of cases” across the Asia-Pacific market. The office now has over 60 lawyers, 17 partners and 40 additional support staff and is well placed to handle cases in the aviation, shipping, energy, financial services, technology and infrastructure, mining and commodities sectors.

The energy group works closely with its counterparts throughout the world to provide a seamless and integrated service on cross-border transactions and global energy matters. Its recent transactions including advising the government of Singapore Investment Corporation in relation to the placement of shares in an Indian power company, and advising the lenders on the due diligence and financing and security arrangements for GMR’s power project, which will be the first in Singapore to utilise liquefied natural gas. Ashley Wright “really knows his stuff” in this area and has extensive experience in the oil and gas, petrochemicals, mining and minerals and power sectors. He is also considered one of the “go-to” lawyers in Singapore for Indonesia energy market work. Stephen Begley stands out for his “technical and financial expertise” and focuses on energy-related transactions. His clients include lenders, sponsors, pipeline operators and suppliers, and his work is “always of the highest quality”.

In the project finance market Jeff Smith specialises in the development, financing and acquisition of energy, infrastructure and telecommunications assets. According to our sources he is “extremely well thought of” thanks to his ability to “tailor advice to clients’ needs”. Global head of infrastructure, mining and commodities Nick Merritt is a “key player” and focuses on major infrastructure projects. He is praised for his “ability to quickly grasp complex issues”.

Ashurst

Ashurst Singapore was opened in 1996 and currently comprises approximately 40 lawyers. Practitioners act for many top Asian and international corporations, financial institutions and government and semi-government entities and the firm has an active role in a number of domestic and international cross-border transactions across South East Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.

The banking and finance practice is particularly strong and Singapore-based lawyers have recently acted on high-profile transactions such as advising the China Development Bank on the US$1.5 billion loan to South Africa’s state-owned ports and rail operator. Kate Allchurch is a “well-reputed” name and has over 20 years of experience giving banking-related advice. She possesses “excellent attention to detail” and comes highly recommended by many. Managing partner Carl Dunton specialises in financing transactions across Asia and is the “lawyer of choice” for many international banks and large Asian-based conglomerates.

Morgan Lewis Stamford

Following a ground-breaking move in April 2015 global firm Morgan Lewis and Singapore’s Stamford Law Corporation joined forces to create a fully integrated firm with the ability to practise across all legal service areas. The office comprises approximately 80 lawyers and is used as a base to conduct inbound and outbound legal work throughout the region and internationally.

Morgan Lewis Stamford has an “excellent” corporate practice with members frequently advising on mandatory, voluntary and partial offers, reverse takeovers and change-of-control acquisitions. Suet-Fern Lee is an “incredibly talented” lawyer and advises on mergers and acquisitions, equity and debt capital markets, and corporate finance. Wai Ming Yap is a “true leader” in the corporate market and counsels a number of clients on merger and acquisition transactions and corporate immigration matters. His “commercial acumen” puts him at the top of the list for many corporate entities in Singapore and abroad.

Justyn Jagger is a “first-rate” insurance specialist and regularly advises on property and casualty, machinery breakdown, liability and the pursuit of subrogated actions. Wendy Tan is similarly lauded for her “impressive proficiency” in the shipping arena.

Latham & Watkins

Since establishing itself over 20 years ago, Latham & Watkins has become a recognised powerhouse in the Singaporean market and South East Asia more generally.  The team’s expertise covers the full spectrum of corporate and financing transactions and regular clients include corporations, financial institutions and governmental agencies.

The project development and finance practice is a focal point for the firm and lawyers assist clients with projects ranging from fossil fuels and renewable energy to telecommunications and transport. Stephen McWilliams is a “leading light” in the market and represents both lenders and sponsors across the Asia-Pacific region. His recent experience includes advising Jurong Aromatics and its affiliates in the US$2.08 billion development and financing of the Jurong Aromatics petrochemicals project. Andrew Roche boasts a “wealth of experience” in projects and acquisition financing. He provides “outstanding results” to clients including developers and development banks. Clarinda Tjia-Dharmadi is a “top choice” for clients requiring expertise on Indonesia-related projects and co-chairs the firm’s power industry group.

The capital markets area is also an established practice of the firm and practitioners are well versed in structuring and executing leading transactions. Michael Sturrock has advised on over 100 completed transactions including debt offerings and IPOs and is praised for his “comprehensive advice” and “finely tuned skills” in this field. Sharon Lau represents issuers and underwriters in international securities transactions and is considered a “great asset to the firm” thanks to her “versatility and creativity”.

Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow

Baker & McKenzie.Wong & Leow is a member of international heavyweight Baker & McKenzie and has quickly risen to become an important branch of the firm’s global network. With a mix of locally and internationally qualified lawyers the firm enjoys a “stellar reputation” in a variety of practice areas.

Leng Sun Chan SC is Baker & McKenzie’s global head of international arbitration and is noted for his “exceptional skills” in this arena. His arbitration practice spans a range of industries including international trade and telecommunications.

In the private client sphere, Dawn Quek “stands out” for her international tax planning. Her ability to “consistently deliver results” and desire to “go the extra mile for her clients” makes her highly recommended among high net worth families.

Head of the IT & communications practice in Singapore Ken Chia is a “legendary figure” in the market and has over 20 years of experience practising in this field. His practice consists of assisting in large-scale procurement, outsourcing and regional transactions, and privacy and e-commerce matters.

Eugene Lim is the “first port of call” for clients in the trade and customs field, while managing principal Andy Leck is “making waves” in the trademarks arena, in which he advises on the exploitation of IP rights and contentious matters.

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has consolidated its position as one of the leading international firms in Singapore and provides “first-class” legal solutions across a number of sectors for individuals, corporate groups and institutions in the public and private sector.

The firm has a “very prominent” capital markets team which is frequently seen on high-profile capital raisings. Alun Balasubramanian’s career spans 18 years and he “garners great respect” for his work in this field. His recent deals and highlights include working on Novartis’ portfolio transformation transactions with GlaxoSmithKline and the sale of its Animal Health business to Eli Lilly. Managing partner Stephen Revell is another “big name” who enjoys a “prestigious reputation” in the market. He specialises in debt and equity security offerings and market regulation.

Gavin MacLaren is a “key figure” in the energy and natural resources market and an “all-time great” in the joint venture and project development spheres. His experience includes advising Blackstone in connection with the US$800 million establishment of its Tamarind Energy platform to acquire upstream oil and gas assets in Asia.

Holman Fenwick Willan

Since its establishment in 1990, Holman Fenwick Willan’s Singapore offering has grown from strength to strength and is among the leading firms in the transport sphere. The office specialises in marine and aviation and global resources, and the calibre of the expertise on offer has cemented its position in the higher branches of the legal market. In July 2015 the firm established a formal law alliance with Singaporean firm AsiaLegal in order to strengthen its local offering.

On the shipping side, Gareth Williams has a “very active” practice focusing on disputes arising from issues such as charter parties, salvage, offshore limitation and ship sales. Paul Apostolis is an “authority” in casualty and dry shipping litigation. He is praised for his “excellent style of delivery” and “diligent manner”.

Head of the Singapore office Mert Hifzi is an aviation liability specialist. He is considered a “font of knowledge” on insurance matters and regularly handles multi-jurisdictional disputes and major accidents on behalf of insurers and reinsurers. Keith Richardson advises insurers, regulators, airlines, helicopter operators, airports, ground handlers and manufacturers on a variety of aviation matters.

Walkers

Walkers opened its Singapore office in 2009, offering a combination of BVI and Cayman Islands legal services to its clients around South East Asia in conjunction with its Hong Kong office. The team boasts specialist knowledge of the private funds space and further enhances its presence in a number of key sectors including insolvency, finance and corporate.

The investment funds Asia group advises investment banks, financial institutions, investment managers, private equity houses and corporates on the structuring, formation and placement of funds. Thomas Granger is a “frontrunner” in this field and has particular knowledge of the hedge funds and private equity market in Japan. Laura Rogers displays “incredible prowess” in the private equity space and advises clients in relation to downstream investments and the establishment and structuring of Cayman Island and BVI funds.

Managing partner John Rogers is a “force to be reckoned with” in the banking space and advises clients on both BVI and Cayman Islands law, while Robert Foote boasts “intricate knowledge” of the complexities surrounding contentious and non-contentious insolvency matters and asset recovery issues.

Herbert Smith Freehills

Herbert Smith Freehills is competitively placed to provide a “top-notch” service to its multinational clients. Members of the team act for blue-chip Asian, European and US clients on the cross-border and international aspects of transactions. The firm also provides clients with access to Singaporean law advice through its relationship with Prolegis – a reputed domestic firm.

As elsewhere in the world, the office’s energy practice is widely reputed for its market-leading work. Brian Scott is lauded as an “expert” in the energy and resources sector and is “first port of call” for clients requiring advice on Indonesia-related transactions.

Alastair Henderson heads the firm’s arbitration practice in South East Asia and is “extremely capable” in trade, investment and energy-related arbitrations. His recent experience includes chairing a Singapore-seated arbitration tribunal under SIAC rules in a case relating to a failed plantation joint venture project in Indonesia.

King & Spalding

Serving as an Asia-Pacific hub for the energy, projects and international arbitration practices, King & Spalding’s Singapore office comprises five partners and an additional 11 fee earners who are well versed in both contentious and non-contentious matters. 

Peter Megens has represented a number of clients in the construction industry and displays “encyclopedic knowledge” of contracts and transactional matters relating to construction projects. He is praised for his “outstanding attention to detail” and “sharp intellect”.

Managing partner John Savage heads the Asia arbitration practice and is “highly sought after” thanks to his experience representing governments, corporations and high net worth individuals in over 140 international arbitrations.

Merrick White and Daniel Rogers also feature in our research thanks to their “renowned” energy practices encompassing oil and gas, LNG, renewable energy and power, among other areas.

Pinsent Masons MPillay

Pinsent Masons MPillay operates as a joint law venture in Singapore and is well positioned to advise leading Singaporean and international companies and financial institutions. The office boasts particular strength in the construction and engineering and energy sectors and works seamlessly with the firm’s network of Asian and global offices to provide an “outstanding” service.

Mohan Pillay is a “star” in the Singaporean market and appears in numerous commercial disputes and regional arbitrations related to construction and engineering projects. His “technical abilities” and “resolute focus” are much appreciated by clients across the globe. Jon Howes is considered an “asset to the firm” thanks to his specialist experience of professional negligence actions for and against professionals in the construction industry.

Bryan Tan is widely recognised in the information technology and telecoms and media areas. His client list includes corporates, institutions and governments and he advises on the full spectrum of advisory and contentious work.

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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