Davinder Singh SC
Office:
10 Collyer Quay
#10-01 Ocean Financial Centre
049315
City:
Singapore
Country:
Singapore
Tel:
+65 6531 2403
Fax:
+65 6532 7149

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Litigation

Chambers & Partners says, “Multiple sources endorse [Davinder’s] stellar dispute resolution practice, taking the view that ‘there is just no comparison’.” The guide adds that, according to clients, he is “a cut above the rest and the best in the business”. Davinder was in the first batch to be appointed Senior Counsel by the Courts of Singapore. He is executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC, chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and vice chairman of the ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION?

I was very fortunate that my pupil master, Joe Grimberg, was by far the best advocate of his time. He was inspirational. It took only a few months of working on cases with him and watching him in action to convince myself that that my career lay in advocacy.

DESCRIBE YOUR MOST MEMORABLE CASE TO DATE.

I have been lucky in the sense that most of my cases have been memorable: whether it is because of the impact the decision had on the law or the significance of the outcome not just to the parties, but to a wider group of people.

YOU HAVE MAINTAINED A BROAD PRACTICE, AND LITIGATED ACROSS A WIDE RANGE OF PRACTICE AREAS. WAS THIS A CONSCIOUS DECISION, OR A REFLECTION OF THE NATURE OF THE LEGAL MARKET IN SINGAPORE?

It was a bit of both. I was never attracted to the idea of specialising in any one domain. I have no regrets because I have learned so much by practising in different areas of the law. Also, when I started practice, the legal market in Singapore was smaller and less diverse – so specialisation was not a viable option for everyone.

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES FACING LITIGATORS IN SINGAPORE AT THE MOMENT?    

While opportunities for litigators have grown by leaps and bounds, the main challenge remains that the many young, bright and ambitious Singapore litigators have to compete with seniors for court time. At Drew & Napier, we are trying to address that by giving our juniors more airtime, even in the larger cases. 

THIRD-PARTY FUNDING IS RECEIVING A LOT OF ATTENTION AT THE MOMENT. TO WHAT EXTENT IS THIS REFLECTED IN YOUR PRACTICE?

Not at this time. In Singapore, third-party funding is in its early days.

AS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF DREW & NAPIER, HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE FIRM DEVELOP OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS?

There are really only two ways of developing in any market: recruitment of the best and hungriest, and an unwavering commitment to train them in the law and in ethics.

WHAT QUALITIES MAKE A SUCCESSFUL LITIGATOR?

Integrity, a willingness to sacrifice one’s private time to prepare for a case, a stomach for a fight, a determination to continue to learn from one’s mistakes and a good dose of luck.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER LAWYERS LOOKING TO ENTER THE BAR?

Aim high, but know that without integrity and hard work, your ambition will leave your achievements trailing far behind. 

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Davinder is executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC; chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre; and vice chairman of the ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption. According to Chambers Asia-Pacific 2018 and Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2018, clients regard Davinder as the “number one in Singapore”, “a bona fide star performer” who is “in a class of his own”. Davinder was in the first batch to be appointed Senior Counsel by the Courts of Singapore.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN LAW?

I was very fortunate that my pupil master, Joe Grimberg, was by far the best advocate of his time. He was inspirational. It took only a few months of working on cases with him and watching him in action to convince myself that my career lay in advocacy.

AS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF DREW & NAPIER, HOW DO YOU ENSURE THE FIRM STANDS OUT AMONG ITS COMPETITORS?

Drew’s value proposition is our obsession with winning outcomes within the bounds of the law and ethics. This philosophy is embedded in Drew’s DNA and is consciously transmitted to our lawyers, generation after generation. Our lawyers know, from the day they join us, that first, they must be completely professional and ethical in their work and second, that they have a responsibility to uphold Drew & Napier’s reputation for uncompromising standards. The seniors are expected to lead by example. The juniors are expected to emulate and surpass the seniors. Only if that is done will Drew continue to outdo itself. We know that we are in this together and need to be special to the clients.

WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT ENTERING THE WORLD OF ARBITRATION?

The rules and dynamics are in some respects different from the courtroom. Cross-examination is limited and there are guillotines. But everyone adapts and the benefits become self-evident.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE INCREASING PROMINENCE OF THE SIAC AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?

The growing attraction of the SIAC has brought more complex, high-value and interesting work to Singapore and we benefit from that. Many of the arbitration proceedings we are involved in have little or no connection with Singapore or Singapore law.

AS INCREASING NUMBER OF REGIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRES DEVELOP, WHAT DOES THE SIAC NEED TO DO TO MAINTAIN A LEADING POSITION AMONG THEM?

We would like to focus on further enhancing SIAC’s reputation in the following respects: first, as a thought leader; second, as an institution that is friendly to younger lawyers and women practitioners; and third, to further embed our name in the countries which provide us most of our cases, as we continue to grow elsewhere.

INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION HAS RECENTLY COME UNDER FIRE FOR THE LACK OF DIVERSITY AMONG ITS PRACTITIONERS. WHAT STEPS DO YOU BELIEVE THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO TAKE TO OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?

SIAC is already making great strides in enhancing diversity, but there is a lot more we can do. When the SIAC Court selects arbitrators from the panel, it pays particular attention to whether there are women candidates who are equally qualified for the role. We would also like to bring younger lawyers into the fold. It is important that they know that they can build their names with SIAC. We, of course, have to strike the right balance between continuing to appoint those who are now on the panel and appointing members of the younger generation.

YOU POSSESS GREAT EXPERIENCE IN BOTH ARBITRATION AND LITIGATION PROCEEDINGS. WHY DO YOU THINK ARBITRATION HAS BECOME SUCH A POPULAR FORM OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION?

Arbitration is a less formal procedure than court litigation, and it is conducted in private. Parties are free to appoint their own arbitrators and can choose more practical procedures and rules for the conduct of an arbitration. Arbitration awards are final and binding, with limited scope for appeal, and have extra-territorial enforceability in over 120 countries under the New York Convention. At times, arbitration can also be more cost-efficient and speedy than court litigation.

MANY SOURCES HAVE HIGHLIGHTED THE GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE YOUNG ARBITRATION COMMUNITY OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DRIVING THE GROWING INTEREST FROM YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS LOOKING TO SPECIALISE IN THE FIELD?

Arbitration gives young practitioners an opportunity to dive into the fray. The nature of the process allows younger lawyers to argue and cross-examine. That helps them build confidence and their names. Many young lawyers have achieved a great deal in international arbitration. Drew & Napier is very supportive of this trend and we encourage our young lawyers to play a greater role at hearings.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Investigations: Lawyers

Davinder Singh is the executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC.

Davinder’s legal experience spans three decades. He has litigated cases in almost every area of the law. He also has an active international arbitration practice.

At the Chambers Asia-Pacific Awards 2014, Davinder was conferred the Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession Award. He is the only litigator in Singapore who has been ranked by Chambers and Partners as a “star individual” for eight years running (2011–2018). According to Chambers and The Legal 500, he is praised as “number one in Singapore”; “a bona fide star performer”; “in a class of his own”; a “standout figure in arbitration as well as litigation”; and “an exceptionally good lawyer – always top of the tree”.

Davinder was named Disputes Star of the Year - Singapore at the inaugural Asialaw Asia-Pacific Awards 2015, and Disputes Lawyer of the Year in South East Asia and India at the inaugural Asian Lawyer Emerging Markets Awards 2014. The Asian Lawyer described him as one “who is feared in Singapore as the city’s most powerful litigator”. He also led the team that won the Cross-border Dispute/Litigation of the Year Award for its successful prosecution of one of the largest corruption cases in Brunei Darussalam.

Davinder is the chairman of the board of directors of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). He is a vice-chairman of the Paris-based ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption. Davinder also sits as director on various boards.

He was in the first batch of senior counsel appointed by the Singapore Supreme Court in 1997.

WWL says: Davinder Singh SC is one of the most prominent advocates in the country who wins praise for his excellent work handling high-profile disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Investigations which can be purchased from our Shop.

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