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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Cavinder Bull SC

Cavinder Bull SC

Drew & Napier LLC10 Collyer Quay#10-01 Ocean Financial CentreSingaporeSingapore049315
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Thought Leader

Thought Leaders - Arbitration 2020

Q&A

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Cavinder Bull SC is “one of the best choices of counsel in Singapore” and a “very persuasive, thorough advocate”. Peers note that he is “really breaking into the market”.

Questions & Answers

Cavinder Bull SC is the CEO of Drew & Napier. He has over 25 years’ experience in international arbitration, acting as counsel in commercial and investor-state cases, and as arbitrator in ICSID, PCA, NAFTA, ICC, SIAC and LCIA arbitrations. He is vice president of the SIAC Court of Arbitration and the Asia-Pacific Regional Arbitration Group; a governing board member of ICCA; and a member of the World Bank sanctions board. Cavinder studied law at Oxford and Harvard Universities. He is called to the Bar in Singapore, New York, and England and Wales. 

What inspired you to pursue a legal career? 

The main motivation was my desire to be an advocate and to participate in significant cases, so I could have a part to play in determining the important issues of the day.

How have the Singaporean government’s efforts to promote the country as a disputes hub in the region affected the market and type of work you have been seeing recently? 

Singapore’s efforts over the past 10 years or so to position the country as a dispute resolution hub have been hugely successful in attracting cross-border cases for resolution here. The number of international commercial arbitrations, as well as investor-state arbitrations, is increasing steadily. This has given those of us practising in Singapore many opportunities to be involved in incredibly interesting cases.  

Your practice spans a range of sectors from banking to telecoms. To what extent is sector-specific knowledge on the part of the arbitrator important when handling commercial disputes? 

Sector-specific knowledge is very important. With it, we understand parties better and can appreciate the factual background to a dispute more thoroughly. Throughout the years I have been fortunate to have worked on a diverse range of cases, which has given me insight into a number of industries operating in Asia.   

What do you enjoy most about your role as vice-president of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)? 

It has been very satisfying to have been involved in the rapid growth of SIAC over the past 10 years, as deputy chairman and vice president of the SIAC Court. It has also deepened my knowledge of every aspect of institutional arbitration, and allowed me to be involved in a few rules-revision exercises, and participate in consultations for new national legislation.  

You have a strong background practising internationally in the UK, the US and Singapore – how does this enhance your approach to international arbitration proceedings?  

My work is international in nature and one has to have an international perspective in order to do it well. My time in the US and in the UK helps me with that. Even today, as I work on South American and African cases, I learn more and more how commercial environments are different all over the world. The experiences have been very helpful. 

What qualities make for an effective advocate in contentious proceedings? 

Integrity; unquenchable thirst for knowledge of the law and beyond; a strong dose of hard work; and a good appetite for a challenge. One should prepare thoroughly, speak clearly, listen carefully and be tenacious.

As CEO of Drew & Napier, how have you looked to develop the firm’s investor-state arbitration practice? 

We have been doing investor-state work now for seven or eight years. Our experience was first gained acting for Asian governments who knew Drew & Napier and trust us. Building from there, we subsequently got work from investors, both Singaporean and non-Singaporean. We now have a number of partners who have experience in this area and quite a number of lawyers who have hands-on experience with investor-state cases. I myself have been appointed a number of times as an arbitrator in ICSID, PCA and NAFTA cases, and at times my associates are appointed as tribunal secretaries to assist me. So we are growing our expertise in this area quite rapidly. 

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?  

Just do your best one day at a time.   

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Cavinder Bull SC receives widespread commendations for his work as a trial and appellate advocate, and is one of the top names in the Singaporean market, with broad sector and industry expertise.

Questions & Answers

Cavinder Bull is CEO of Drew & Napier LLC. Actively engaged in trial and appellate advocacy for the past 25 years, Cavinder is experienced in handling a wide range of complex litigation matters including corporate disputes, fraud, insolvency, private equity disputes, antitrust and international arbitration. He graduated from Oxford University with first-class honours in law and has an LLM from Harvard Law School. He is called to the Bar in Singapore, New York and England. He was appointed senior counsel by the Chief Justice of Singapore, one of a handful to be appointed before the age of 40.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career?

The main motivation was my desire to be an advocate and to participate in significant cases, so I could have a part to play in determining the important issues of the day.

What do you enjoy most about your role as CEO of Drew & Napier?

Drew & Napier is entering a phase of growth and development as a firm, and it is incredibly exciting to be leading the firm at this time and to help shape its future.

How effective are government efforts to establish Singapore as a hub of dispute resolution proving?

In recent years, Singapore has boosted its position as an up-and-coming global dispute resolution hub. The High Court of Singapore has heard cross-border cases for many years and now, with the Singapore International Commercial Court gaining traction, even more such cases are being heard in Singapore.

What impact is Singapore’s growth as a centre for alternative dispute resolution having on litigation in the country?

The growth of international arbitration and mediation in Singapore has generated much related court work. In particular, litigation in support of arbitration proceedings has increased. This ranges from applications for interim measures prior to the constitution of the arbitral tribunal to applications to set aside arbitral awards. In fact, the Singapore courts are continuing to develop arbitration and mediation-related jurisprudence at a significant pace.

What are the main challenges lawyers face when handling cross-border litigation between parties from different countries with separate laws?

The biggest challenge is a conflict of cultures. This may be reflected in different legal systems being in play for different aspects of a case. It is also reflected in the process of understanding the evidence, as an appreciation of how people in different countries behave is important. Appreciating the different cultures in play is critical in being effective in dealing with cross-border cases. Moreover, being able to explain that to judges who are also grappling with those differences can be challenging. However, that makes such work so incredibly interesting.

What impact has technology had on your litigation practice in recent years, and how will it shape the firm in the future?

Technology is increasingly being deployed in case preparation, as well as in case presentation. Clients and the courts expect Singaporean lawyers to be able to leverage technology to be more effective. We will see how technological solutions help to reduce time and costs for discovery processes, and how these solutions can radically change the speed at which allegations made in court can be checked against even the largest pool of documentary evidence. For the advocate, the use of augmented reality tools is particularly exciting, though we have some way to go before we see this widely used in all the courts we practise in.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

I have a few dreams and aspirations but I’m content to see what God has in store for me.

What is the best piece of career advice you have received?

Just do your best, one day at a time.

Global Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader
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