In a bid to broaden its presence across Southeast Asia, Singapore Big Four firm Drew & Napier has expanded its regional law network, Drew Network Asia (DNA), to include Thailand's biggest firm, Tilleke & Gibbins. Sushil Nair, Drew & Napier's deputy chief executive officer, outlines the strategic focus of DNA and how expansive jurisdictional coverage can translate to enhanced client service.
ALB: DNA was established in 2020. Can you talk about how the experience has been so far? How does having a network across Southeast Asian countries align with the overall goals of Drew & Napier?
Sushil Nair: Drew Network Asia (DNA) was established with a view to putting together an alliance of Southeast Asian law firms who are existing leaders in their respective jurisdictions. Initially, the firms that comprised the alliance were Drew & Napier of Singapore, Makarim & Taira S. of Indonesia, and Shearn Delamore & Co. of Malaysia in 2020. In 2021, we added a Philippines firm, Martinez Vergara & Gonzalez Sociedad and last month, we added a fifth firm, Tilleke & Gibbins, expanding our regional footprint to 824 fee earners across nine jurisdictions within ASEAN, giving us the capability to service clients throughout the region.
Drew & Napier, as a firm, has significant experience in dealing with and managing cross-border transactions and disputes. We were being constantly engaged to work on cross-border transactions, often playing the role of the lead legal advisor, coordinating with other firms across the region and internationally. It made sense for us to develop an alliance, but we were acutely conscious of the need to ensure that the parties we worked with would constitute some of the best legal minds in the region. The DNA member firms all meet this requirement, and we now have the ability to provide seamless access to top legal advisors from the region's leading firms for our cross-border clients.
ALB: What specific strategic focus does DNA bring to the table in terms of legal services within Southeast Asia? How does this strategic focus differentiate DNA from other legal networks or individual law firms operating in the region?
Nair: A number of Singapore firms, Drew & Napier included, have seen that looking outward and being in a position to assist clients across borders is essential to the development of legal services within Southeast Asia. ASEAN is an economically linked region, and Singapore is known as a global financial and commercial hub. We recognise the increasing need to service clients across borders, and DNA ensures that the parties we work with constitute some of the best legal minds in the region through our network of "blue-chip" premium law firms. Our locally qualified lawyers across different jurisdictions have significant on-the-ground experience and insights into the ever-evolving business and legal landscape.
ALB: With the addition of Tilleke & Gibbins, what do you anticipate will be the most immediate and long-term benefits for both Drew Network Asia and its clients?
Nair: Tilleke & Gibbins is the largest independent law firm in Thailand and a top-ranked firm in ASEAN, with more than 230 lawyers and consultants practicing in seven offices across the region. With the addition of Tilleke & Gibbins, DNA and its clients gain access to market-leading legal practitioners providing a full range of legal services across Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, expanding DNA's coverage to a total of nine jurisdictions within ASEAN – the nine largest by population as well as GDP. This strategic collaboration will support global and regional enterprises as they look to take advantage of the many opportunities across the Southeast Asian region both in the short- and long-term.
ALB: What does it take to join the DNA network, and what does Tilleke & Gibbins bring to the table?
Nair: DNA looks for partnerships that last. In our selection process, the potential candidate must be a blue-chip firm that matches the network's standard for excellence in client service and strengthens its mission to provide top-notch legal services across ASEAN.
Tilleke & Gibbins has a rich history in Southeast Asia, from its founding in Bangkok in 1890 to its rapid regional growth over the past decade, mirroring the development of the region. The strength of the firm's legal expertise and client service is regularly lauded by top legal publications, earning the firm a total of 18 Firm of the Year awards in 2023 alone – including three awards from ALB covering all of Southeast Asia. The firm's reputation and capabilities in ASEAN are perfectly aligned with the other members of the DNA network and will be a vital asset to companies looking to expand across Southeast Asia.