Big Four Singapore firm Drew & Napier has undergone something of a metamorphosis over the past year, with lateral hires, the setting up of a regional network, and a greater emphasis on technology. CEO Cavinder Bull SC talks to Asian Legal Business about the changes, and shares plans for what’s ahead.
ALB: The past year has seen the firm embrace a new direction. Can you take us through some of the key developments?
BULL: As chief executive officer, I aim to grow the firm both in size as well as capability. This growth is driven by our clients’ needs; they want us to do more for them, not just in Singapore but also in the region. As part of this vision, we added seven people to equity last year. Of these, three were home-grown Drew & Napier lawyers who were promoted. Three more were former Drew & Napier lawyers who came home, and one was a lateral hire who I had been working with on various matters for the last four years. Amongst these are a senior counsel, one of the top tax lawyers in town, one of the most sought-after construction lawyers, and the general counsel of Ethereum Foundation. We have added an oil and gas capability, strengthened our construction law practice, grown our tax and trusts group, added cryptocurrency to our offerings and launched DrewTech, a technology law practice. We are intent on making Drew & Napier a platform for all our lawyers to be able to fulfil their professional ambitions. That will attract and keep talent, to the benefit of our clients.
ALB: As part of its regional growth plans, the firm set up Drew Network Asia (DNA). Can you talk about the plans for this network?
BULL: In March this year, we launched DNA, a network of premium law firms which aims to provide clients with seam-less service for multi-jurisdictional legal matters. Joining us in DNA are Shearn Delamore & Co. from Malaysia and Makarim & Taira S. from Indonesia, well known and long-established firms, each of which shares our vision to provide top-quality legal work. The idea is a simple one. We want to be able to help clients in cross-border situations, but we want to do that whilst still working with some of the best legal minds in the region; hence the vision of developing a network of “blue chip” law firms. This is very much just the beginning. We intend to grow this “firm of firms” to include premium law practices from several other jurisdictions.
ALB: Drew recently entered into a collaboration with financial advisory firm Vanda Global. How does it fit in with Drew’s growth strategy in the near term?
BULL: The growth strategy of Drew & Napier includes, among other things, the strategic collaboration with Vanda Global. Our corporate clients are in various stages of their business cycles, such as the start-up phase, capital and fundraising phase, growth and expansion through mergers and acquisitions, and even looking to list on an exchange. In many cases, businesses only consider the type of legal support that they require at a very late stage in their decision-making process. By collaborating with Vanda Global, we hope to engage with a wider group of businesses at an early stage of their business cycle, to better understand their legal requirements, and be able to efficiently offer a full suite of legal services to these businesses. By engaging with these businesses in partnership with Vanda Global, we hope to become their legal advisers of choice and expand our corporate practice across various sectors, including technology, fintech, healthcare and life sciences, regulatory and capital markets.
ALB: COVID-19 has made planning more challenging, but what’s your vision for the firm for the coming months?
BULL: The COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges. However, we are incredibly fortunate that we invested in a significant IT upgrade across the firm last year and this has paid dividends during this trying time. It has enabled our lawyers to be much more productive than otherwise. My short-term goals as CEO have been quite simple: (1) we need to look after everyone in Drew: lawyer, support staff, trainee; (2) we also have to look after our clients by maintaining the quality of our work for them; and (3) we have to continue with our growth vision regardless of the times. By way of example, so far this year we launched DNA and Drew & Napier’s Data Protection, Privacy and Cybersecurity Academy, both during the pandemic. We also launched a CSR-service platform, DrewCare, which provides a full suite of legal and corporate governance advisory for the philanthropic endeavours of business corporations. God willing, we intend to keep moving forward.
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