Davinder Singh SC
Office:
168 Robinson Road
#20-01 Capital Tower
068912
City:
Singapore
Country:
Singapore
Tel:
+65 6328 0288

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders Global Elite

Davinder is executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC, chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and vice chairman of the ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption. According to the 2018 editions of Chambers Asia-Pacific and The Legal 500 Asia-Pacific, clients regard Davinder as “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 2018 Asian Legal Business SE Asia Awards. 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 walked into Drew’s office in 1982, I’ve been exposed to exciting work and have had the privilege of working with the best lawyers.

How has international litigation changed since you started your career?

It is now more complex and requires us to be familiar with new developments in the law in different countries as well as 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.

How do you prepare for court in a high-pressure case?

It is essential to have a team of good lawyers and to listen to their perspectives. I am fortunate to have a great team at Drew & Napier.

After 20 years as CEO of Drew & Napier, what was your proudest achievement in the role?

Drew & Napier has maintained its position as the leading dispute resolution firm in the face of increasing competition.

How does Drew & Napier distinguish itself from the competition?

Drew’s value proposition is our focus on doing our very best for the client. This philosophy is embedded in Drew’s DNA and is consciously transmitted to our lawyers, generation after generation. Our lawyers know from the day they join us that, first, they must be completely professional and ethical in their work; and second, they have a responsibility to uphold Drew & Napier’s reputation for uncompromising standards. The seniors are expected to lead by example. The juniors are expected to emulate and surpass the seniors.

How has your role as the chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre intersected with your work as a litigator?

My experience in litigation has helped shape some of my views about what SIAC must continue to do in order to make Singapore the most attractive place for international arbitration.

What is the best piece of advice you have received?

You are only as good as the decision maker’s view, and the client’s view, of how well you did in your last case.

What trends do you expect to see in litigation in Singapore in the next few years?

Singapore will continue to grow as the pre-eminent centre for international dispute resolution. 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.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Arbitration

Davinder is executive chairman of Drew & Napier LLC; chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre; and vice chairman of the ICC commission on corporate responsibility and anti-corruption. According to Chambers Asia-Pacific 2018 and Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2018, clients regard Davinder as the “number one in Singapore”, “a bona fide star performer” who is “in a class of his own”. Davinder was in the first batch to be appointed Senior Counsel by the Courts of Singapore.

WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TO PURSUE A CAREER IN LAW?

I was very fortunate that my pupil master, Joe Grimberg, was by far the best advocate of his time. He was inspirational. It took only a few months of working on cases with him and watching him in action to convince myself that my career lay in advocacy.

AS EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN OF DREW & NAPIER, HOW DO YOU ENSURE THE FIRM STANDS OUT AMONG ITS COMPETITORS?

Drew’s value proposition is our obsession with winning outcomes within the bounds of the law and ethics. This philosophy is embedded in Drew’s DNA and is consciously transmitted to our lawyers, generation after generation. Our lawyers know, from the day they join us, that first, they must be completely professional and ethical in their work and second, that they have a responsibility to uphold Drew & Napier’s reputation for uncompromising standards. The seniors are expected to lead by example. The juniors are expected to emulate and surpass the seniors. Only if that is done will Drew continue to outdo itself. We know that we are in this together and need to be special to the clients.

WHAT DID YOU FIND MOST CHALLENGING ABOUT ENTERING THE WORLD OF ARBITRATION?

The rules and dynamics are in some respects different from the courtroom. Cross-examination is limited and there are guillotines. But everyone adapts and the benefits become self-evident.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE INCREASING PROMINENCE OF THE SIAC AFFECT YOUR PRACTICE OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?

The growing attraction of the SIAC has brought more complex, high-value and interesting work to Singapore and we benefit from that. Many of the arbitration proceedings we are involved in have little or no connection with Singapore or Singapore law.

AS INCREASING NUMBER OF REGIONAL ARBITRATION CENTRES DEVELOP, WHAT DOES THE SIAC NEED TO DO TO MAINTAIN A LEADING POSITION AMONG THEM?

We would like to focus on further enhancing SIAC’s reputation in the following respects: first, as a thought leader; second, as an institution that is friendly to younger lawyers and women practitioners; and third, to further embed our name in the countries which provide us most of our cases, as we continue to grow elsewhere.

INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION HAS RECENTLY COME UNDER FIRE FOR THE LACK OF DIVERSITY AMONG ITS PRACTITIONERS. WHAT STEPS DO YOU BELIEVE THE COMMUNITY NEEDS TO TAKE TO OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES?

SIAC is already making great strides in enhancing diversity, but there is a lot more we can do. When the SIAC Court selects arbitrators from the panel, it pays particular attention to whether there are women candidates who are equally qualified for the role. We would also like to bring younger lawyers into the fold. It is important that they know that they can build their names with SIAC. We, of course, have to strike the right balance between continuing to appoint those who are now on the panel and appointing members of the younger generation.

YOU POSSESS GREAT EXPERIENCE IN BOTH ARBITRATION AND LITIGATION PROCEEDINGS. WHY DO YOU THINK ARBITRATION HAS BECOME SUCH A POPULAR FORM OF DISPUTE RESOLUTION?

Arbitration is a less formal procedure than court litigation, and it is conducted in private. Parties are free to appoint their own arbitrators and can choose more practical procedures and rules for the conduct of an arbitration. Arbitration awards are final and binding, with limited scope for appeal, and have extra-territorial enforceability in over 120 countries under the New York Convention. At times, arbitration can also be more cost-efficient and speedy than court litigation.

MANY SOURCES HAVE HIGHLIGHTED THE GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION OF THE YOUNG ARBITRATION COMMUNITY OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DRIVING THE GROWING INTEREST FROM YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS LOOKING TO SPECIALISE IN THE FIELD?

Arbitration gives young practitioners an opportunity to dive into the fray. The nature of the process allows younger lawyers to argue and cross-examine. That helps them build confidence and their names. Many young lawyers have achieved a great deal in international arbitration. Drew & Napier is very supportive of this trend and we encourage our young lawyers to play a greater role at hearings.

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - Litigation

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.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Investigations: Lawyers

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.

WWL says: Davinder Singh SC is commended by sources who describe him as a "top notch, hard-working lawyer who will get it done".

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Investigations which can be purchased from our Shop.

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