March 15, 2017

Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shares with Asian Legal Business how, “Disruptive technology is here to stay, and the only way to overcome disruption is to embrace change quickly.”

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat shared his views in an Asian Legal Business article titled “City at the Crossroads”. The article was first published in the March 2017 edition of Asian Legal Business. City at the Crossroads Source: 2017 © Asian Legal Business Date: March 2017 Edition Author: Ranajit Dam The travails of law firms in Singapore have been mentioned in these pages previously, but they still bear repeating. Competition is intensifying: An increasing number of international outfits are setting up shop in the city-state, smaller local firms are mushrooming to take their own slice of the pie, and even accounting firms are getting in on the action. Fee pressures grow more excruciating – the billable-hour model is dying, and fixed fees and retainers are taking its place. Much of the low-end work is now under threat from a combination of bulked-up legal teams and rising legal tech startups. And these factors don’t even take into account potential threats from emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). In short, the legal industry in Singapore, much like the legal industry in other parts of the world, is facing disruptions like never before. Of course, this means that it is critical for law firms in Singapore to react quickly and decisively if they don’t want to be overwhelmed by these fundamental, permanent changes. But the route to take for individual firms might depend on a variety of factors – their specific strategy, their place in the industry, and their strengths and weaknesses. For Tan Chong Huat, managing partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, law firms need to go beyond just being a law firm and instead offer clients a comprehensive suite of solutions for all their business needs. “Lawyers must create value for their clients,” he says. “Firms that strengthen their international expertise and are able to provide one stop legal offerings across ASEAN and eventually globally are better placed to tap opportunities that globalisation brings.” Government Support Tan says that recent changes in the legal landscape show that the Singapore government is keen to see law firms evolve with the times. “This is a move in the right direction,” he notes. “The establishment of the Legal Services Regulatory Authority in November 2015 was designed to modernise the regulatory regime of Singapore’s legal industry. Changes to the regulatory regime now allow law firms to attract and hire foreign lawyers and nonlegal talent who can help to strengthen their firm’s legal practice beyond the traditional areas of legal practice. These will also allow law firms to expand their practice into the region.” In the disputes space, Tan notes the move towards third-party funding. “The Singapore government’s push to transform Singapore into an international centre for dispute resolution, as well as the move to allow third-party funding for arbitration, are changes that augur well for the dispute resolution sector,” he says.” Additionally, a new five-year blueprint was introduced at the start of the year to encourage law firms to adopt the latest tools and software to improve operations, says Tan. The Singapore Academy of Law also unveiled a roadmap for the incubation a legal tech scene. “Taken together, these moves are highly positive for the legal industry,” he says. We can expect to see law firms adopting technology that can help streamline work processes or even work with other non-legal professionals to create new business offerings to clients.” But it is the technology aspect that might just be the most critical part of the whole equation. “The gulf between the smaller and traditional law firms and the bigger legal players may threaten to widen significantly over time, especially if there is a lack of knowledge and resources to facilitate the harnessing of baseline legal technologies that can strengthen the practice of law,” observes Tan. “It is heartening to see the Singapore government provisioning for grants to encourage smaller law firms to adopt technology to grow their practice, especially with the growing potential for more legal services going virtual.” Recently, the Singapore government announced a scheme called Tech Start for Law, a S$2.8 million grant programme designed to help small and medium sized law firms boost productivity through technology. “This is a step in the right direction and reflects the government’s seriousness in assisting law firm,” adds Tan. Singapore’s Future According to Tan of RHTLaw, as law firms invest more in innovative technologies, the industry is likely to witness the proliferation of new technology harnessing big data analytics and AI to undertake previously time-consuming and manually laborious work such as basic legal research, document review and construction. “Some firms already use virtual secretaries and innovative solutions to ensure that they can share support services across several offices in the region,” he says. He points out that such technology has made it possible for law firms to adopt a multi-nodal network approach to a truly regional practice. “This will facilitate consolidation within the industry through mergers and alliances across the region. Singapore law firms will have to decide if they wish to grow by going regional or international, or by becoming ‘boutique,’  focusing exclusively on specific practice areas.” He also sees the government further liberalising the legal market in the coming years. “Greater liberalisation will increase pressure and competition in the legal sector, but it will also result in an overall increase in the quality and calibre of our local firms as we step up to compete with the established international law firms,” says Tan. In addition to managing partner of Nabarro’s input on keys to success in the contemporary market; Chong Huat emphasised on the importance of technology and geographical reach, which are two critical factors that law firms must leverage on to succeed in this evolving market. “It boils down to the law firm’s ability to support its clients well through geography and intelligent innovative legal solutions,” he says. “Given the increasingly cross-border nature of many commercial transactions, having a solid global and regional network to support the clients is important. A law firm lacking in international presence will find itself challenged when it pitches for international deals and tenders.” Excerpts were taken from the article “City at the Crossroads” published in the Asian Legal Business March 2017 Asia Edition. The full article can be read here.
March 14, 2017

Congratulations to Family and Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth on her appointment as a Senior Mediator to the Law Society Mediation Scheme Panel of Mediators

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing congratulates Family and Matrimonial Partner Michelle Woodworth on her appointment as a Senior Mediator to the Law Society Mediation Scheme (LSMS) Panel of Mediators. The certificate of appointment was presented to Michelle by the Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at The Law Society Mediation Forum held on 10 March 2017 at the Singapore Management University. Officially launched at the forum last Friday, the LSMS was developed by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee of the Law Society of Singapore to encourage the use of mediation amongst legal professionals. It also provides an additional option to the Law Society’s existing framework of alternative dispute resolution solutions. Michelle has also been Certified as a Mediator by the International Mediation Institute and Singapore International Mediation Institute and among other appointments, is a Mediator on the Family Panel, Singapore Mediation Centre
March 14, 2017

“Prohibition Orders imposed by MAS would protect consumers from dealing with persons that fall short of the authority’s expectations”, shares Head of Regulatory Practice Nizam Ismail with TODAY

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Head of Regulatory Practice Nizam Ismail was quoted in TODAY article titled “1MDB probe: MAS seeks lifetime trading ban on two ex-bankers”. The article was first published in TODAY on 13 March 2017. 1MDB probe: MAS seeks lifetime trading ban on two ex-bankers   Source: 2017 © Mediacorp Press Ltd. Date: 13 March 2016 Author: Valerie Koh SINGAPORE — In an unprecedented move, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is seeking lifetime trading bans against two individuals who had been convicted of offences linked to the 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) money-laundering probe here. Announcing its latest actions arising from the investigations, the central bank also said on Monday (March 13) that it has imposed a 10-year Prohibition Order (PO) on former Goldman Sachs (Singapore) director Tim Leissner, who is among the most high-profile individuals to be banned from the Singapore markets. Under the PO, Mr Leissner will be banned from performing any regulated activity under the Securities and Futures Act and taking part, directly or indirectly, in the management of any capital market services firm in Singapore. Flouting these rules could result in a maximum fine of S$150,000, a jail term of two years, or both.  MAS said it has served notice of its intention to issue lifelong POs against former Falcon Private Bank (Singapore) branch manager Jens Fred Sturzenegger and former BSI managing director Yak Yew Chee. Individuals facing POs can make written representations to MAS before the final decision is taken. If issued, TODAY understands that these would be the first lifelong bans under the Securities and Futures Act and the Financial Advisers Act. A third person, former BSI director Yvonne Seah Yew Foong, is potentially facing a 15-year PO, MAS said.  Mr Ong Chong Tee, deputy managing director of financial supervision at MAS, stressed that the authority would not tolerate conduct by any finance professional that threatens to undermine trust and confidence in Singapore’s financial system. “MAS will not hesitate to bar such individuals from carrying out regulated activities in the financial industry. It is imperative that industry professionals and representatives of financial institutions are fit and proper persons,” he said.  The investigations began in March 2015. Since the start of last year, MAS has ordered BSI and Falcon to shut down. The two Swiss-based private banks were also fined S$13.3 million and S$4.3 million respectively. To date, five individuals have been hauled to court: Sturzenegger, Yak, Seah, ex-BSI wealth planner Yeo Jiawei, and former remisier Kelvin Ang Wee Keng. Swiss-based UBS and Singapore bank DBS have also been fined S$1.3 million and S$1 million respectively. MAS had previously said that the probe was nearing completion and a final update would be provided early this year.  Mr Leissner was served notice by MAS in December last year and invited to submit written representations as to why a PO should not be made against him, MAS said.  From 2002 till Feb last year, Mr Leissner was with the Singapore arm of Goldman Sachs although he has been based in Hong Kong since Nov 2011. Mr Leissner was found to have issued an unauthorised letter to a financial institution based in Luxembourg in June 2015, and to have made false statements on behalf of Goldman Sachs (Asia), without the firm’s knowledge. “Following careful consideration of the representations made by Mr Leissner and the relevant facts, MAS has decided to issue a PO for a period of 10 years against Mr Leissner with effect from March 13, 2017,” MAS said. In the case of Sturzenegger, he was managing Falcon Private Bank (Singapore) and in charge of the bank’s compliance with MAS regulations, notices and directives, as well as other relevant laws and regulations. In January, he was found guilty of failing to report suspicious transactions linked to the 1MDB fund, and lying to MAS and the Commercial Affairs Department on several counts: To hide his ties with Malaysian tycoon Low Taek Jho, and to conceal his knowledge of Mr Low’s bank accounts. Mr Low is suspected of siphoning billions of dollars from 1MDB. Sturzenegger is now serving his 28-week jail term. He was also fined S$128,000. When contacted, his lawyer Tan Hee Joek said that he had yet to be approached to make representation to MAS on Sturzenegger’s behalf.  Last November, Yak was sentenced to 18 weeks’ jail and fined S$24,000 for failing to disclose suspicious transactions and forging reference letters to entities in Switzerland. These letters were used to cover up Mr Low’s net worth or hide the source of his fund transfers. Seah, who had abetted Yak in forging these letters, was jailed two weeks and fined S$10,000 last December.   Yak and Seah have served their sentences, and Yak’s lawyer Lee Teck Leng said that he and his client “respect MAS’ decision”. Lawyer Peter Low, who represented Seah previously, said that she had not contacted him. RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s regulatory practice head Nizam Ismail said that the POs imposed by MAS would protect consumers from dealing with persons that fall short of the authority’s expectations.  Associate Professor Johan Sulaeman, from the finance department at the National University of Singapore Business School, reiterated that the severity of the POs is meant to prevent future occurrences of similar misconduct, and to make a stand on Singapore’s viability as a financial hub. “The POs apply only to Singapore institutions, and therefore may not have a global or even regional effect. However, they send a clear signal that Singapore does not want to be trapped in a regulatory race to the bottom,” he said.
March 9, 2017

International law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing strengthens Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice with new Partner hire

Leading international law firm RHTLaw Taylor Wessing has boosted its commercial and construction litigation capabilities with the appointment of Mr Sivakumar Vivekanandan Murugaiyan as Partner in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Practice with effect from 1 March 2017. Sivakumar has an impressive track record in commercial and construction litigation and arbitration, having acted as both Counsel and Arbitrator for arbitration cases. He brings with him an extensive 28 years of experience, advising and representing a wide range of clients including individuals, local businesses, international corporations and financial institutions on civil and commercial arbitration and disputes matters. Sivakumar focuses principally on building contract and construction disputes, banking litigation, company disputes, minority shareholder claims, claims relating to breaches of fiduciary duties, defamation and insolvency-related litigation. The addition of Sivakumar to the team highlights the Firm’s commitment to grow and strengthen its Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice in line with the Government’s push to reinforce Singapore’s position as a dispute resolution hub. Commenting on Sivakumar’s appointment, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat said, “We are delighted to welcome Sivakumar to our Firm. With Singapore becoming the preferred centre for international commercial arbitration and dispute resolution, Sivakumar’s extensive experience in civil and commercial litigation will strongly bolster our litigation and dispute resolution offering to potential clients.” Senior Partner and Head of Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Mr Roderick Martin, S.C. added, “The work Sivakumar undertakes will be in line with the Firm’s momentum for its lawyers to be seen as industry experts in their various fields of litigation and dispute resolution. His multifaceted background will add depth to the Practice which will provide a tremendous amount of value to our clients.” Sivakumar graduated from Queen Mary College, University of London in 1987 and did his Bar Finals at the Inns of Court School of Law in 1988 before commencing his practice in 1989. He has served as Treasurer and Executive Committee member of the Law Society and on various committees including the Ethics Committee, Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee as well as the Inquiry Panel. In addition, he also served for many years on the Board of Commissioners & Notaries Public of the Singapore Academy of Law. --- This press release is featured in the following news reports: "RHTLaw lands SG dispute resolution partner from Straits Law" - Asian Legal Business, 9 March 2017