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 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 Asia-Pacific (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.
Describe your career to date.
I have been extremely fortunate. From the moment I became a lawyer in 1982, I’ve been exposed to exciting work and have had the privilege of working with the best lawyers.
What do you enjoy most about working in litigation?
That it keeps you on your toes, literally and otherwise, all the time.
How has the market changed since you first started practising?
It is now more complex and requires us to be familiar with new developments in the law in different countries, along with cultural and other issues. With the Singapore International Commercial Court and the rise of international arbitration, one finds oneself increasingly before decision makers who are from different countries with different backgrounds.
The clients are better informed, take ownership of the disputes and, therefore, reasonably expect to be involved in strategic and tactical decisions as the case progresses.
How do you think third-party funding will impact the litigation market?
It will not make a huge impact in the foreseeable future.
What trends are you currently seeing in litigation?
Singapore will continue to grow as the pre-eminent centre for international dispute resolution and mediation. The number, complexity and value of dispute resolution and international arbitration cases in Singapore will grow as the centre of economic gravity continues to shift to Asia.
How important is it for a general commercial trial lawyer to have sector- or industry-based expertise concerning the case they are handling?
Although industry-based expertise would be helpful, it is not a prerequisite. Such things can be, and often are, learnt for cases with the help of industry experts. The trial lawyer would need to have a crash course on the subject, and master the details which are often all but forgotten after the trial.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
You are only as good as the decision maker’s and client’s views of how well you did in your last case.
What advice would you give to a younger practitioner hoping to one day be in your position?
Aim high, but know that without integrity and hard, back-breaking work, your ambition will leave your achievements trailing far behind.
Davinder Singh SC is highlighted as a practitioner who “deals with clients on the key issues associated with investigation matters” and is commended as a “top-notch, hard-working lawyer who will get it done for you or your client if you have issues in Singapore”.
Davinder Singh is the executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC.
Davinder's legal experience spans more than three decades. He has litigated cases in almost every area of the law, including landmark cases. He has time and again been recognised by various local and international publications as a top litigator and arbitration counsel.
Davinder has an active international arbitration practice involving complex commercial disputes, international clients and multiple jurisdictions. He has advised and/or acted in numerous institutional and ad hoc arbitrations.
According to Chambers Asia-Pacific (2019) and The Legal 500: Asia-Pacific (2018), clients say, "When it comes to court craft, court presence and a certain amount of killer instinct in court, he is the one" and regard Davinder as the “number one in Singapore” and “a bona fide star performer” who is “in a class of his own”. His multiple industry accolades include being named Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year at the Asian Legal Business SE Asia awards 2018. He is the only litigator in Singapore to be ranked by Chambers and Partners as a “Star Individual” for nine years running, from 2011 to 2019.
Davinder is the chairman of the board of directors of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). He is a vice chairman of the ICC Commission on Corporate Responsibility and Anti-corruption. Davinder also sits as director on various boards.
Davinder was in the pioneer batch of senior counsel appointed in 1997 by the Supreme Court of Singapore.