George Lim SC was called to the Bar in 1981, and was appointed senior counsel in 2010. He was president of the Law Society of Singapore (1998-1999), and currently chairs the Singapore International Mediation Centre. George is a highly sought-after mediator in commercial and cross-border disputes. He serves on the board of the International Mediation Institute, and was Singapore’s mediation consultant at UNCITRAL Working Group II on Conciliation. George is the co-editor of Mediation in Singapore: A Practical Guide.
Describe you career to date.
I have practised law for 37 years, as a civil litigator, arbitrator and mediator. I have been mediating for 22 years. Four years ago, I decided to mediate on a full-time basis. I have mediated close to 500 disputes with a success rate of 75 to 80 per cent.
What is your philosophy for being a great mediator?
Preparation, and a sincere desire to help the parties to resolve their dispute. And of course, perseverance.
How important is mediation training for judges and lawyers, in your opinion?
Mediation training is essential for anyone who wants to be a mediator. However, theory and role-playing are not sufficient. I find that practical training is the best form of training. For example, if you have a chance to sit in with an experienced mediator on a full-day mediation, that is the best way to learn.
To what extent has the Singapore Convention on Mediation begun to have a visible impact on the market?
I was privileged to be Singapore’s mediation consultant to UNCITRAL’s Working Group II on Conciliation, which led to the adoption of the Singapore Convention on Mediation (SCM). The signing ceremony of the SCM was held on 7 August 2019 in Singapore. A record 46 countries signed the SCM! This was unprecedented in the history of the UN. Not only did 46 countries sign, but the countries that signed included the US, China and India, which make up more than half the world’s population. And in September 2019, five more countries signed the SCM, bringing the total number of signatories to 51. Mediation is a form of access to justice. China has 26 million disputes, and India has even more: 33 million. In most countries, the court and arbitration processes are inadequate to manage disputes in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Mediation is the answer, and the SCM has helped highlight this. There will be a clear visible impact on the market within the next five years.
Singapore is a leading global destination for commercial dispute resolution. How has this affected the nature of work you have been receiving?
I chair the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC). We have seen a marked interest in mediation. Personally, I am getting more requests to conduct mediations involving cross-border disputes.
As transnational work becomes increasingly common, do you think that mediators need to adapt to the increasingly cross-border nature of disputes?
Yes, of course. Conducting mediations involving parties from different countries and cultures is highly challenging. Mediators who wish to do this kind of work need to be comfortable dealing with people from different nationalities. Again, preparation is key.
Over the years to come, do you anticipate that mediation could become an important dispute resolution mechanism for domestic Singaporean disputes?
Mediation was introduced in the Singapore courts in the mid-1990s. Today, almost every case in the court system is mediated. Parties also have the choice to have their cases mediated at the Singapore Mediation Centre, the SIMC or other private mediation organisations. The legal profession in Singapore has largely embraced the use of mediation. So, in short, mediation is already an important dispute resolution mechanism in Singapore.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
To become a full-time mediator. I now mediate one or two cases a week. Last week, I mediated a case in which a 30-year-old professional was sacked by his employer. The mediation concluded with the employer re-employing the young man, albeit in a different capacity. I believe the mediation allowed the parties to clarify the facts and review their positions. I was glad I helped a young man regain his career. Such is the power of mediation!
George Lim SC is a leading light in the Singaporean ADR scene, and has mediated over 500 disputes, including several complex, cross-border commercial matters.
George Lim was called to the Bar in Singapore in 1981. He was appointed senior counsel in 2010, and was president of the Law Society of Singapore between 1998 and 1999.
George is the chairman of the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) and was Singapore's mediation consultant to UNCITRAL working group II, which resulted in the adoption of the Singapore Convention on Mediation.
George is an IMI-certified mediator. He did his mediation training in 1996 at the CEDR and later at Harvard. In 1997, he helped to set up the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC).
George has mediated more than 500 disputes with a settlement rate of 75 to 80 per cent. He has also conducted mediation training for judges and lawyers in Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Philippines, Fiji, Myanmar, Dubai, Bahrain, South Korea and Japan.
George is on the panel of arbitrators of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). He has been the dispute resolution counsellor of the National Electricity Market of Singapore since 2003.
George served as the first chairman of the Asian Mediation Association (2009–2010). He currently serves on the boards of the SIMC, the SMC and the International Mediation Institute (IMI). In 2013, George co-chaired a working group, appointed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and the Ministry of Law, to make recommendations on developing Singapore into a centre for international commercial mediation. In October 2019, he was appointed by the Government of Singapore to the Roster of Panel Chairs of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on Dispute Settlement.
George is the co-author of Mediation in Singapore: A Practical Guide.