September 5, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views on “Doing away with cash and cheques” in this week’s Views from the Top

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views in this week’s topic in the Business Times’ weekly column, Views from the Top. This article was first published in The Business Times on 5 September 2016. Doing away with cash and cheques Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd Date: 5 Sep 2016 THIS WEEK'S TOPIC: How ready is your organisation for an electronic payments society? What challenges do businesses face in going cashless? Tan Chong Huat Managing Partner RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP MAS's focus in promoting a national electronic payments architecture is timely, aligned with Singapore's aspiration to be have a smart financial centre, and a smart economy. An efficient and secure payment system is a key infrastructure for both the financial system and the broader economy. MAS's proposed single regulatory framework for the licensing, regulation and supervision of all payments services, including stored value facility holders, remittance companies, and virtual currency intermediaries is conceptually sound, perhaps a little overdue. A more efficient national payment infrastructure will bring tangible benefits for both businesses and consumers. Businesses should see transitioning into more efficient payment mechanisms as sound investment.
September 4, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Napolean Rafflesson Koh featured in The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Napolean Rafflesson Koh was featured in The Straits Times article titled "Support from family and friends helps". The article was first published in The Straits Times on 4 September 2016. Support from family and friends helps Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 4 Sep 2016 Author: Zhaki Abdullah While many mid-career lawyers are dropping out, some that stay on are thriving. Mr Napolean Rafflesson Koh is eight years into his career and in July, the 32-year-old was made a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, which he joined two years ago as a senior associate. Mr Koh, who specialises in building construction, infrastructure and engineering disputes, graduated in 2009 from the National University of Singapore and worked at WongPartnership, one of Singapore's Big Four law firms, for the first five years of his career. He acknowledged that the job comes with a steep learning curve. Shortly after being called to the Bar in 2009, he had to fly to the Middle East every two weeks to help resolve an airport dispute. "Lawyers need a lot of good support from their families, friends and the work environment," said Mr Koh, adding that his parents saw him off at the airport every time he had to go overseas. He said the job got easier after the first three years when he better understood his work, learnt how to better achieve his targets in terms of billable hours and how to better handle clients. It also helped that he got to practise an area of law that he preferred. Mr Koh developed an interest in construction law after having been an intern on the construction team at an international law firm in 2005. Given the amount of time spent at the office, he believes it is essential that the workplace be a "collegiate" environment. "It's important to have a network of friends who understand what you're going through and whom you're able to share your problems with," said Mr Koh, who is single. He said young lawyers should not dwell too much on trying to achieve work-life balance. "Work is very much a big part of who you are. "If you don't try to differentiate between your work and private life, I think it makes things easier." He admitted though that the long hours could take their toll. "Sometimes, you have to stay past midnight for months on end," he said, adding that lawyers needed to learn how to pace themselves so as not to get burned out. "If you can go home early, just go home."
September 4, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat was quoted in a series of three articles in The Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat was quoted in a series of three articles in The Straits Times titled "Many mid-tier lawyers leaving the profession", "Billable hours not the only yardstick" and "Lighter workload, training among moves to retain staff". The articles were first published in The Straits Times on 4 September 2016. Many mid-tier lawyers leaving the profession Recently, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon spoke to new lawyers about the challenges ahead, at a time when many of their seniors have called it quits. There is no quick fix to this 'hollowing out' of mid-career lawyers, say those in the legal community. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 4 Sep 2016 Author: Amelia Teng It is a familiar tale - working past midnight then returning to the office hours later the next morning to plough through case notes and rush to meet deadlines. Anecdotes like this are common in the legal industry, which has in recent years seen an exodus of mid-tier lawyers, a point raised by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon last month at this year's Mass Call, a proceeding that formally admits lawyers to the Bar. Citing statistics which showed mid-tier lawyers - those with seven to 12 years of experience - made up less than 10 per cent of the profession in the last five years, he said that such "burnout" has led to a "hollowing out" of mid-career lawyers. The Law Society says there were 423 mid-tier lawyers last year, compared with 1,909 junior ones with less than seven years of experience, and 2,502 senior lawyers with more than 12 years of experience. The number of mid-tier lawyers has gone up to 793 this year because of recategorisation, The Law Society said. Those with five to 15 years' experience now count as "mid-tier", as these years are when many associates become partners. Former lawyers told The Sunday Times that a combination of push and pull factors made them leave the sector. These include the long working hours and "transactional" nature of work - and for some, the desire to learn skills and find fulfilment outside the legal profession. Ms Kendra Liew, 28, a former matrimonial lawyer who quit at the end of 2014, said: "A lot of the work is time-sensitive and demanding with little room for flexibility and error. "I was not looking forward to work every day. I would wake up in the middle of the night to check e-mail and was constantly thinking about what to do the next day." Ironically, the 28-year-old who spent three years in practice joined the profession"to help people". She now runs a business creating organic skincare products. "When you go in with those ideals, and you experience practice, you get disillusioned and feel like you aren't making a difference." Mr Esmond Yue, who spent four years in corporate law in two firms, said his typical work day started at 7.30am and ended at 1am. "The latest is just going to the office gym to shower and continue working till the next morning. Maybe you'll doze off for half an hour." The 31-year-old, who was earning $10,000 a month by his third year, said: "The money makes up for the pain. But it becomes a tahan (Malay for 'endure') game." Some like Mr Mark Cheng said it was the high-stress nature of the work that was draining. Said the 30-year-old, who spent two years in litigation at a mid-sized firm: "People are paying the lawyer to solve their problems and take their stress away. Suddenly you become that person with everyone's problems. That is very stressful. It's like a glorified sweat shop. Junior lawyers have a mountain of work that is tedious and time-consuming." Some former lawyers said they found little ownership and meaning in their work. Mr Yue added: "You see only the legal aspects - a small part of a business - and you work on deals that seem so far-removed." Work improved after he joined a foreign firm. "But I realised that's as good as it gets... I felt I wanted to learn more outside the law, like dealing with people, management skills," said the co-owner of a Japanese food business. A 27-year-old lawyer who declined to be named tendered her resignation last month after three years in corporate law at one of the Big Four law firms. "You don't have time for yourself, for family... It's common to have to work on weekends and settle things from home," she said, adding that she will return to the sector. "I still like some of the work I'm doing... but this is something like a personal sabbatical. I just need a change in environment." Mr Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, acknowledged the increasing demands: "Competition and the demands of a more sophisticated clientele - the global climate aside - are shaping how firms behave. "We become more productive and efficient and this puts a lot of pressure on our mid-tier lawyers." Mr Edmund Koh, 31, who spent four years at one of the Big Four law firms in banking and financial disputes, left the field last year to co-run a start-up to help lawyers with legal research. "I liked the intellectual challenge of law, but I wanted to have more exposure to business," he said. "A lot of people go in to law not knowing what the practice of law is like. Perhaps they are misled by the glamour of lawyers portrayed on TV. "For every moment you spend in court, there are countless hours spent preparing for it."   Billable hours not the only yardstick Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 4 Sep 2016 Author: Amelia Teng Some law firms said that they do not put too much focus on enforcing billing targets for young lawyers, as it can be counterproductive and may not be a good reflection of their capabilities. Most firms bill clients by the hour. Lawyers' bonuses can, depending on the firm, be based on their billable hours. What started as a transparent technique for charging clients has been "transformed into a powerful tool for measuring and controlling the work of employee solicitors", said Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. "Time is money and an increasing emphasis on the latter means young lawyers are expected to sacrifice more of the former, with the only real outer boundary, it seems, being that there are only 24 hours in a day." Law Society president Thio Shen Yi called for a mindset change so "partners of a law firm aren't out to exploit every single billable hour they can get out of a lawyer". He added: "They need to invest in lawyers as people. To see them as long-term resources rather than as short-term factors of production." Mr Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said: "Focusing solely on billable hours without paying attention to developing young lawyers to be wholesome practitioners will be missing the point." It is one of many yardsticks, he said. Others include how a lawyer meets clients' needs and how he can grow and sustain his practice. Lawyer Gloria James-Civetta said the practice of billable hours is more strictly enforced in big firms and corporate law firms. At her mid-sized firm dealing with family and criminal law, junior lawyers have a guideline to bring in three times their monthly pay in revenue. She said: "It's just to gauge if they can handle a certain amount of work. We also look at abilities such as how they draft an affidavit, how they take instructions from clients and their time management skills."   Lighter workload, training among moves to retain staff Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 4 Sep 2016 Author: Amelia Teng There is no easy way to stop younger lawyers from leaving the practice, the legal community told The Sunday Times. In his address to this year's newly minted lawyers, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon called for law firms to see themselves as "educational institutions with a duty to train their young lawyers into the very best version of themselves". In response, some law firms said they have made efforts to retain mid-tier lawyers, such as by training them early and letting them have input in designing policies. The Law Society is conducting a survey to study the stress that young lawyers face. The results are expected by the end of the year. Its president Thio Shen Yi said: "We hope we can use (the results)... to give us some real deep knowledge into what young lawyers face in terms of pressure, what drives them and what drives them away." It is "unrealistic" for lawyers starting their career to expect high salaries and independence, said Professor Simon Chesterman, dean of the National University of Singapore's law faculty. "But it's also short-sighted on the part of law firms that squeeze their junior staff for short-term performance rather than building careers." Lawyer Gloria James-Civetta suggested easing the workload by having longer deadlines and getting help from paralegals. At her firm, lawyers are paid "above market salary" and get pay rises every six to 12 months, depending on how they perform. Rajah & Tann Singapore started a service last year to match legal consultants to companies that need legal support on short-term contracts and project-specific work. "Lawyers who need a break from practice and want to try something different but still stay in the legal industry can tap on (this)," said deputy managing partner Patrick Ang. There have been 11 successful matches. Some firms said they try to meet the career aspirations of lawyers by giving them room to progress and have ownership in their work. Mr Bazul Ashhab, managing partner and head of dispute resolution at Oon & Bazul, said it has put in place policies in the last five years to encourage young lawyers to stay for the long haul. For instance, partners train them to manage clients and court expectations, and guide them in building their clientele so they have the skills to become partners later. The firm also has regular meetings and an annual retreat "where ideas are canvassed and new policies are formulated with input from younger lawyers". Mr Chia Ho Choon, human resources partner of Withers KhattarWong, said "high potential lawyers" have "career progression opportunities, management responsibilities as well as freedom to develop their practice". Some firms said that with recent mergers, more opportunities exist for young lawyers to be part of higher-level work. For instance, those who join Withers KhattarWong can get global exposure by working in 17 other offices abroad. Mr Lek Siang Pheng, deputy managing partner of Dentons Rodyk & Davidson, said lawyers can now be more involved in cross-border transactions and global disputes and arbitrations. His firm is one which has bucked the trend - its proportion of lawyers with seven to 12 years of experience grew from nearly 14 per cent in 2011 to close to 18 per cent as of last month. Mr Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, said it is exploring automating aspects of work processes to be more efficient so as to ease the lawyers' workload. About 50 per cent of its lawyers have seven to 12 years of experience, compared with 60 per cent five years ago. But Mr Tan also highlighted that lawyers need to have passion, along with a supportive work environment, to "keep them aligned" and "help them fulfil their passions". Prof Chesterman said that pro bono, or voluntary, work - which is increasingly being adopted by many firms in the United States and elsewhere - can also help retain lawyers. He said: "A lawyer who is earning lots of money may actually be less satisfied than one who thinks he or she is making a difference. Carving out part of the week for work that does not pay, but has an impact on your community, can make the rest of the week feel more worthwhile."
August 31, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Head of Capital Markets Ch’ng Li-Ling was quoted in The Business Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Head of Capital Markets Ch'ng Li-Ling was quoted in The Business Times article titled “Industry watchers split over move on dual-class shares”. The article was first published in The Business Times on 31 Aug 2016. Industry watchers split over move on dual-class shares One camp says it makes SGX attractive for IPOs; the other is wary about the safeguards and setting a precedent Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 31 Aug 2016 Author: Kenneth Lim Now that the Singapore Exchange (SGX) has opened up the issue of dual-class share listings, it seems inevitable that a significant portion of the market will be disappointed, whichever way the regulations head. Those supportive of allowing dual-class structures point to the potential for SGX to beat out its rivals in attracting initial public offerings (IPOs), especially for high-profile tech companies, and to the various safeguards proposed that would help to address governance risks. As DBS head of capital markets Tan Jeh Wuan put it: "This will add to the options available to international companies that are considering listing on the SGX." But the critics are just as adamant that dual-class shares are bad news waiting to happen, citing doubts about the efficacy of the proposed safeguards and the risk of setting a precedent. Aberdeen Asset Management Asia head of corporate governance David Smith said: "I understand why SGX proposed it. I don't necessarily follow that we as shareholders should support it." The Listings Advisory Committee (LAC), an industry-dominated, independent body that advises SGX on unusual listing matters, has told the SGX that it is in favour of allowing dual-class share listings, subject to certain safeguards. Those safeguards include a maximum 10-to-1 differential in voting power; no conversion to dual-class structures for already listed companies with a single class of shares; loss of multiple voting power when preferred-class shares are sold or when owner-managers cease their executive roles; only one vote per share when electing independent directors; and mandatory adherence to the Code of Corporate Governance's recommendations on board independence and composition. SGX has said that it would gather more feedback; a public consultation process will take place if SGX decides to amend the listing rules. The feedback is likely to reflect a divided public. Allowing dual-class shares is a matter of keeping the market competitive and vibrant, the structure's proponents say. Credit Suisse head of equity capital markets in South-east Asia Cheun-Hon Ho said: "It opens up the universe of prospective companies wanting to list on SGX, to company owners who would like to retain control while raising cash to fund growth, as well as provides investors with broader investment options while maintaining high standards of transparency and corporate governance." RHTLaw Taylor Wessing's Ch'ng Li-Ling, who heads the law firm's corporate practice, said that there was a reasonable amount of interest among business owners for structures that allow greater control without having to account to shareholders for short-term results. She said: "A lot of the small caps are owner-managed, so they do have very strong views on where they want to take their business. They have a certain vision for where they want their business to be. A lot of clients find that having to seek shareholder approval does hamper their plans in some way. The common refrain is 'I can't wait for shareholder approval; the business opportunity will be lost by then'." DBS's Mr Tan said that the safeguards recommended by the LAC are a step in the right direction, although fine-tuning might be necessary upon implementation. "As the dual-class share structure is new in this part of the world, SGX will need to see how the implementation of these safeguards work in practice and if necessary, tweak the rules to ensure that proper corporate governance is observed," he said. PropertyGuru co-founder and chief executive Steve Melhuish told The Business Times that, while obstacles for listing tech companies, such as a lack of comparables and research, still had to be overcome in Singapore, accommodative rules would put SGX "on parity with other exchanges". But not all are convinced that parity means allowing dual-class shares. In fact, Australia, Hong Kong and London's main board have all considered - and rejected - dual-class structures, National University of Singapore associate professor Mak Yuen Teen pointed out to The Business Times. The corporate governance advocate also voiced concerns about the robustness of a system that relies on independent directors as safeguards, when such directors have had a spotty track record and it has been difficult to hold them accountable. Aberdeen's Mr Smith was concerned that SGX may set a precedent for other exchanges to follow. "Once SGX does it, everyone else will want to do it," he said, adding: "Every exchange of size will have this, and then when you ask, 'Who's more competitive?', well, no one, because everyone else has it. "The people who will be worse off are the investors, because we have the same amount of companies, but worse governance." He said that he believed neither in the need for dual-class shares - "If you're so fabulous at your job, why would we want to kick you off the board?" - nor in the ability of LAC's safeguards to protect minority investors. "The perversity is that the more safeguards you put in place, the less attractive it is for an issuer," he said. From an investor's standpoint, dual-class shares make it harder to invest in a company even if its business is good, Mr Smith said. Institutional investors such as passive-fund managers also have no control over the investments they make and are therefore highly dependent on single-class structures to exert their influence. "Investors will have to do a hell of a lot of research to understand why a company needs to have dual-class shares," he said.