Cavinder Bull SC
Office:
10 Collyer Quay
10-01 Ocean Financial Centre
049315
City:
Singapore
Country:
Singapore
Tel:
+65 6531 2416
Fax:
+65 6533 3591

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Building on nearly 25 years of dispute resolution experience, Cavinder acts as counsel and arbitrator in complex international arbitrations. As counsel, he has represented governments, multi-national corporations, and some of the biggest names in business and finance. He has been appointed arbitrator in ICSID, PCA, ICC, SIAC, LCIA, UNCITRAL and ad hoc arbitrations. He is the vice president of the SIAC Court of Arbitration, a member of the governing board of ICCA, vice president of the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group and former deputy chairman of SIAC.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO FOCUS YOUR PRACTICE ON DISPUTE RESOLUTION?

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

HOW HAS INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION EVOLVED SINCE YOU FIRST BEGAN PRACTISING IN THE FIELD?

International arbitration in Asia has certainly become a much more important form of dispute resolution, especially as Asian economies reach out beyond their own borders. There has also been a great deal more investor-state arbitration in Asia in recent years.

HOW HAS YOUR WORK AND EXPERIENCE AS COUNSEL IMPACTED YOUR APPROACH TO PROCEEDINGS WHEN ACTING AS ARBITRATOR?

It has convinced me that counsel know the case best. They live with the case for years and listening carefully to their submissions greatly educates tribunals.

WHERE, IN YOUR OPINION, DOES THE FUTURE OF THE PRACTICE AREA LIE?

The practice of international arbitration will continue to demand the highest intellectual engagement and diligent mastery of facts. What we will need more of is a greater understanding of cultural and linguistic differences so that counsel and arbitrators will do right by parties from all over the world.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAS THE EMERGENCE OF NEW REGIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRES AROUND THE WORLD, SUCH AS THE SIAC, HAD AN IMPACT ON THE POPULARITY OF “TRADITIONAL” ARBITRAL SEATS?

It has challenged what we think of as “traditional” arbitral seats. I am not so sure if that term will really be meaningful in the near future.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU SHARE WITH OTHER LAWYERS WHO HOPE ONE DAY TO BE IN YOUR POSITION?

Start by being a good arbitration counsel. That means to be well prepared and clear in presentation. Then watch the tribunal carefully and engage with them. It is that engagement that will teach you much.

AS CEO OF THE FIRM, WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN PRIORITIES IN TERMS OF ITS DEVELOPMENT AT THE MOMENT?

The goal is to keep the firm firmly in the top tier for dispute resolution while expanding into other areas of practice. Investor-State arbitration is a good example. We now have eight ongoing cases and a good number of lawyers at all levels who have been exposed to this area of practice.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR CAREER, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN THE PROUDEST OF?

It is too early for me to be looking back.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Litigation

Cavinder Bull, CEO of Drew & Napier, has worked in trial and appellate advocacy for the past 25 years. He is experienced in 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 and Wales. He was appointed Senior Counsel by the Chief Justice of Singapore, one of a handful to be appointed before the age of 40.

Describe your career to date.

From the start of my career, I have always spent a significant amount of my time in court arguing cases. So I see myself as an advocate, first and foremost. Over the years, I have tried cases and argued appeals relating to a wide range of industries and dealing with different areas of the law. This broad diversity of work is one defining quality of my practice.

On what types of matters have clients come to you most frequently in recent months?

Cross-border litigation is keeping me very busy at the moment. This often involves proceedings in multiple jurisdictions, and complex issues around conflicts of laws where the stakes are high.

In your view, how competitive is the legal market in Singapore at present?

The legal market in Singapore is very competitive. Significant Singapore firms doing work in the region go head to head with international firms who are increasingly making their presence felt even in the Singapore courts. The advent of the Singapore International Commercial Court is one place where such competition plays out.

What qualities make for a successful litigator?

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

Your practice also sees you work in international arbitration. How does your preparation for litigation differ from that for international arbitration?

Counsel are given much more time for cross-examination in court cases than in international arbitration. This allows for more careful exploration of the evidence and the credibility of witnesses. As a result, preparation for cross-examination is much more time-consuming for litigation than for arbitration, but the effort is always worthwhile as, given enough time to develop a proper cross-examination, the truth always comes out in court.

What are the major trends affecting the Singaporean litigation space at the moment?

As Singapore continues to be a centre for international dispute resolution, we see the practice of litigation in Singapore acquiring characteristics from various legal traditions. This mix of legal methods and traditions has led the Singapore courts to remake court procedures, borrowing from the best practices worldwide. Another trend is the heavy use of technology in litigation practice. Technology is increasingly being deployed in case preparation as well as in case presentation. Clients and the courts expect that Singaporean lawyers are able to leverage technology to be more effective.

What challenges did you face when you first returned from New York to practise in Singapore?

There were few challenges there. I had practised in Singapore for two years before going to Harvard for my LLM. I then ended up in New York, working as a litigator at a leading New York firm. When I decided to return to Singapore in the midst of the Asian financial crisis, it was not a difficult fit. After all, I already had some experience litigating in the Singapore courts before I left. What I found was that my experience in New York had broadened my perspectives, and also allowed me to interface well with North American clients who had disputes in Asia.

What makes Drew & Napier stand out from other firms in the market?

We own the problem. Without losing our professional objectivity, we work on our clients’ problems as if we were seeking to solve our own problems. This drives us to leave no stone unturned – be that in legal research or sifting through the evidence. We always seek to get the best possible result for the client, whether that means taking the case to trial and winning it, or realising early that the best outcome for the client is a settlement and managing the case towards a mediated outcome. That level of intensity is what Drew & Napier has delivered generation after generation.    

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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.

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