Davinder is executive chair of Davinder Singh Chambers LLC; chair of the SIAC; and vice chair of the ICC Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption. Clients quoted in Chambers Asia-Pacific (2019) and The Legal 500 (2018) say: “When it comes to court craft, court presence and a certain amount of killer instinct in court, he is the one”, and describe him as “a bona fide star performer” who is “in a class of his own”. Davinder was in the pioneer batch of Senior Counsel appointed in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Singapore.
After almost 40 years at Drew & Napier, what inspired you to establish your own dispute resolution boutique?
It was time to move on, after having appointed the new leadership at Drew & Napier. I was given the freedom to lead when I became the CEO. Even though Drew & Napier exempted me from the retirement age, I felt strongly that the new team should have the same freedom.
My plans were to work as a barrister, with help from a couple of juniors. However, after I announced that I was leaving, a number of people who are very dear to me asked if they could join me. One thing led to another, and I soon found myself setting up this firm with them, focusing on litigation and international arbitration.
What are you enjoying most about building and growing your new firm?
I am enjoying the warmth and camaraderie of a smaller outfit. Our size gives more opportunities for training and nurturing.
What effect has the opening of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) had on the practice of dispute resolution in the region?
I declare my interest as the chairman of SIAC. It has had an enormous and significant impact on the practice of dispute resolution in the region. The number, complexity and value of cases, both in Singapore and from the region into Singapore, have grown significantly. This has given younger practitioners so much more exposure, including working with and against top international lawyers.
What are the key qualities that clients look for in an effective trial lawyer?
Trust, integrity and dedication to the client’s cause within the bounds of ethics.
To what extent does your work in arbitration enhance or affect your approach in litigation proceedings?
International arbitration may have its own pace and rhythm but it holds very valuable lessons about managing time in cross-examination. Guillotines in arbitration force a practitioner to learn how to focus on the key points in cross-examination. These lessons can be very usefully and effectively applied in court proceedings.
How do you anticipate the Singaporean legal market changing in the next five years? How might this affect your practice?
Singapore remains an oasis of stability and predictability in an increasingly uncertain world. These attributes, the integrity of our institutions, and the Singapore government and judiciary’s continuous efforts to enhance the country’s attractiveness as a centre for dispute resolution (including international arbitration, mediation and cross-border insolvency and restructuring) hold out great promise. There is a strong sense that Singapore’s position and standing as a centre for the resolution of disputes can only grow, and that will ensure a continuing stream of complex and high value international disputes. This means that there will be opportunities for young lawyers to train and grow in stature.
What has been the most memorable case you have worked on?
There have been many, for different reasons.
What advice would you give to lawyers looking to establish a career in commercial litigation?
Devote yourself to your work. Half measures won’t do.
Davinder is the executive chair of Davinder Singh Chambers LLC, chair of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and vice chair of the ICC Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-Corruption. According to clients, he is “a world-class litigator lauded for his super-sharp thinking” (WWL: Litigation), “the ‘number one in Singapore’, praised for his ‘standout persuasive and advocacy skills’” (The Legal 500) and a “bona fide star performer” who is “in a class of his own” (Chambers).
What motivated you to pursue a career in dispute resolution?
My experience being the pupil of the leading advocate of the day, Mr Joseph Grimberg SC, whose sheer class and mastery of court craft made all other options seem uninteresting.
How does your experience as executive chairman at your own boutique differ from your experience as executive chairman at Drew & Napier?
It is in the special relationships you build by working very closely with your colleagues. The increased interaction makes for stronger and more enduring bonds.
Singapore has in recent years established itself as a centre for alternative dispute resolution. What impact do you see this having on your litigation practice?
I declare my interest as the chairman of SIAC and a director of the Singapore International Mediation Centre. While alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Singapore is growing by leaps and bounds, that has paradoxically enhanced Singapore’s reputation for dispute resolution as well. It is true that if a dispute is successfully mediated, there is no need for a trial or arbitration hearing for that dispute. But that is only half the picture. The same factors that mark us out as an international hub for ADR burnish our attraction as a centre for dispute resolution: trust, independence, expertise, speed and efficiency. So, Singapore has a great future as a centre for both ADR and dispute resolution.
How far have technological developments affected litigation proceedings in recent years?
They have helped to save costs and make for greater efficiency in huge and complex document-intensive litigation.
What qualities make for an effective litigator in today’s market?
Trust, integrity and wholehearted dedication to the client’s cause within the bounds of ethics.
To what extent do more experienced litigators have a role to play in promoting and encouraging younger talent?
Whether they know it or not, experienced litigators are always mentoring the juniors. They do that by discussing the law, facts, strategy and tactics. They do that when they are on their feet. The juniors take in everything.
As executive chairman, what are your main priorities for the firm’s development over the next few years?
Training the younger lawyers and helping them grow.
Looking back over your illustrious career, what has been your proudest achievement?
That many who I had the privilege of working with have – by their hard work, intelligence and integrity – risen to the very top, with a few assuming high and distinguished office.
Davinder Singh is a top choice for counsel, and highly active in the market with extensive experience defending clients.
Davinder Singh, Senior Counsel, is the executive chairman of Davinder Singh Chambers LLC.
Davinder's experience spans more than three decades. He has litigated cases in almost every area of the law, including landmark cases. He is also active in the international arbitration space involving complex commercial disputes, international clients and multiple jurisdictions. He has advised and/or acted in numerous institutional and ad hoc arbitrations. Davinder has time and again been recognised by various local and international publications as a top litigator and arbitration counsel.
He is the only litigator in Singapore to be ranked by Chambers Asia-Pacific as a “Star Individual” for dispute resolution: litigation (Singapore), a category above Band 1, for 10 years running (from 2011 to 2020). He is also ranked as a Band 1 individual for dispute resolution: arbitration in Singapore.
According to Chambers Asia-Pacific (2020), “Davinder Singh SC is a highly sought-after practitioner who clients describe as a ‘star performer with a sixth sense for knowing what the opponent is up to, sometimes with unmatched accuracy, and an ability to suss out how best to position, drive and argue your case.’" In The Legal 500 Asia Pacific (2020), he has been noted as a “leading individual” for both dispute resolution and international arbitration. Sources have stated: “Davinder Singh SC is in a class of his own. He is not only a bona fide star performer, but a star performer with an X factor that is hard to put your finger on.” According to further praise, “Davinder Singh SC is without peer at the Singapore Bar. His cross examination skills are razor sharp. It is a joy to watch him in court.”
Davinder was the first lawyer in Asia-Pacific to be inducted into the “Hall of Fame” at Benchmark Litigation's 2019 Asia-Pacific Awards. According to Benchmark Litigation, this honour is in recognition of his distinguished legal career and achievements in dispute resolution in the Asia Pacific.
He is the chairman of the board of directors of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. He is vice chairman of the ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption. Davinder is a senate member at the Singapore Academy of Law and has served and continues to serve as a trustee or board member at various companies and organisations.