At the start of this year, Davinder Singh SC, who is often considered Singapore’s most celebrated litigator, left Big Four firm Drew & Napier after 37 years to launch his own practice. He recently spoke to Asian Legal Business about making the switch, and explained why investing in young lawyers is at the heart of his work.

 


With the new leadership having been appointed at Drew & Napier, it was time to move on. When I became the CEO, I was given the freedom to lead. Even though Drew & Napier exempted me from the retirement age, I felt strongly that the new team should have the same freedom. I had initially planned 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, focussing on litigation and international arbitration. My priority in this new outfit is to help my younger partners grow in stature. We, in turn, are determined to train young lawyers, give them both more visibility at hearings and exposure to challenging work.


My partners and I want to take on and train as many young lawyers as is practicable. We now have 30 lawyers and trainees and see ourselves taking on more. It is heartening to know that young lawyers from Singapore and elsewhere have expressed an interest in us. There is immense potential in Singapore in the areas of litigation and international arbitration. In addition to the abundant domestic disputes work, Singapore’s position and standing as a centre for the resolution of international disputes will continue to grow, thanks to its incomparable legislative, judicial and international arbitration eco-system. That will ensure a continuing stream of complex and high-value international disputes. There are huge opportunities for ambitious young practitioners who wish to specialise in dispute resolution.


This firm’s future lies in the hands of my younger partners and our young lawyers. They have so many opportunities to grow and excel. We want very much to increase the pool of high-quality dispute resolution practitioners in this country, and hope to do that by exposing our young lawyers to different types of cases, sharpening their advocacy skills, and teaching them to give concise, balanced and honest advice, as they use technology to provide a better service. We also encourage them to actively contribute to discussions, and they have found that the seniors do not have a monopoly on good ideas.


While the professional aspects are no different, in Drew, I did not have the opportunity on a day-to-day basis to interact with all the lawyers and staff. That comes with being in a large organisation. In our present outfit, we sit close to each other, and that makes for greater interaction.

 

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