February 23, 2016

Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat authored an opinion piece titled “Do more to support family and criminal lawyers” for the Straits Times

Managing Partner Tan Chong Huat has authored an opinion piece titled “Do more to support family and criminal lawyers” for the Straits Times. The article was first published in The Straits Times on 23 February 2016. Do more to support family and criminal lawyers Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 23 Feb 2016 Author: Tan Chong Huat The establishment of the new UniSIM Law School, a specialist law school for the training of prospective family and criminal lawyers, comes at a time of great change for the legal profession in Singapore. Following significant regulatory changes last November, which included the entry of a new centralised entity to regulate local and foreign law practices, the Steering Committee's recommendations for what will be Singapore's third law school represent a paradigm shift in training lawyers. Unveiled on Feb 16 , the UniSIM Law School's mission is to produce "lawyers with a sound grasp of the law who have a strong sense of justice and a heart for their fellow man". The practice-oriented and multi-disciplinary curriculum for UniSIM's students will be welcomed by the legal profession, in view of the anticipated shortfall in family and criminal lawyers in the next decade. With its practical pedagogical approach, concerns that UniSIM will be second best to the law schools in the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Singapore Management University (SMU) have much less force, at least from the legal profession's standpoint. The emphasis on a holistic selection process is also intended to reduce the risk of lawyer attrition in these practice domains, as the student profile will be geared towards mature applicants with a predisposition towards family and criminal law. The outflow of graduates from UniSIM may also have no appreciable effect on the lawyer glut phenomenon, if they practise in these two potentially understaffed practice domains. The hopeful optimism that UniSIM graduates will, with such a carefully calibrated legal education, practise family and criminal law for the long term underscores the difficulties in ensuring that the supply of lawyers meets future demand. On the one hand, it is incontrovertible that UniSIM graduates, like graduates from the two other more established law schools, have a right to earn a living and should not be pigeon-holed into family and criminal law. No one can predict with certainty the future needs of the legal services sector and it would be wilful short-termism to curtail lawyer mobility, especially in the globalised legal landscape. On the other hand, seeing the glass as half full may not be sufficient assurance that the legal profession's future manpower needs will be met. While the NUS and SMU law schools do not bear the burden of transforming graduates into practising lawyers, UniSIM's raison d'etre is precisely for this purpose. If insufficient numbers of UniSIM graduates enter family or criminal law practice, what is likely to result is unmet community needs coupled with a more aggravated lawyer glut, not to mention an even more highly stressed legal profession. Thus, while the Steering Committee's recommendations are welcome, UniSIM and the legal community should do more to ensure the two practice domains will be adequately resourced in the medium to long term, while recognising market realities. Here are some suggestions. First, a postgraduate moratorium could be implemented to ensure that UniSIM graduates serve the areas of family or criminal law that they demonstrated passion and enthusiasm for before admission. The moratorium could take the form of requiring UniSIM graduates to take on, in their first three years of practice, a prescribed number of files (which can vary depending on individual circumstances) in either or both practice domains through the Legal Aid Bureau or the Law Society's Criminal Legal Aid Scheme. Second, the financial cost pressures which come with practising in these practice domains may be alleviated by allocating heavily subsidised rental space in community centres for law firms that practise predominantly community law. This measure will also promote access to justice, as community legal assistance would be readily available to the average Singaporean. Third, to help UniSIM graduates as well as existing family and criminal lawyers to stay the course, a formal practice support programme should be instituted under the auspices of the Law Society and UniSIM. Such a programme will assist community lawyers to better manage the evolving challenges of their practices, which are increasingly incorporating cross-border elements such as child abduction and transnational crimes. Finally, UniSIM, supported by the legal community, should hold an annual event to recognise the efforts of community lawyers, past and present. The late Subhas Anandan, a senior partner of my firm, was a pioneer in doing pro bono criminal work and was duly recognised for his efforts. Promoting community lawyers at this event would also inspire law students, whether from UniSIM or elsewhere, to take up the worthy cause of serving the community. As we look forward to the first intake of the UniSIM Law School next year, we should also look further to the long-term goal of ensuring sufficient numbers of community lawyers to meet the needs of Singapore society. Practising law is a journey that begins in law school and a good foundation must be set. But equally important are optimising the UniSIM Law School education and providing support and recognition for committed community lawyers in the course of legal practice. The four suggestions offer some plausible steps, beyond hopeful optimism, to enhance access to justice in Singapore. The writer is managing partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing LLP.
February 15, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing announces Registered Foreign Lawyer hire

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing is pleased to announce the addition of Mr Erwan Barre as a Registered Foreign Lawyer with effect from 2 February 2016. Focused on corporate transactions, Erwan has extensive experience representing clients across many industries, with an emphasis in the Technology and Life Science industries. Erwan has been involved in many M&A, joint venture, capital markets and financing projects in Asia, Europe and the US, including several game changing transactions. Most of these deals were cross-border. His transactional expertise is based on leading over 50 deals, representing in the aggregate more than US$20 billion. 15 of his deals exceeded US$ 500 million in value with several in excess of US$ 1 billion. 60% of his transactions involved TMT (telecommunications, media and technology) and life science companies. He has also represented clients in other industries, including aerospace, real estate, hospitality and energy. His clients include blue chip names as well as promising start-ups and several leading investment banks. He also has management experience, being a co-founder of Vaximax, a biotech company. He has been regularly recognized as a leading practitioner in his field by professional publications, such as Chambers and Legal 500. Erwan holds an MBA from the Neoma (ESC Reims) Business School in France (1990), a pre-doctoral degree (DEA) in business law from the Pantheon-Sorbonne (Paris I) University (1993), and an LL.M. degree from Columbia University in the US (1996). Erwan has worked in Singapore, Paris, New-York and London and is a member of the Paris and New York Bars.
February 5, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing ranked the 2nd largest law firm by lawyer headcount in the Southeast Asian region in a recent report published by The Lawyer entitled “South East Asia Elite 2016”.

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing has been ranked the 2nd largest law firm by lawyer headcount in the Southeast Asian region in a recent report published by The Lawyer entitled “South East Asia Elite 2016”. The increase in headcount was contributed by the firm’s regional initiatives and commitment to the ASEAN Plus Group (APG); a working network of 8 law firms, which was launched in August 2014. The APG is a group of full-service law firms that blends the best of knowledge, culture and international expertise.  With the APG, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing offers clients access to over 337 lawyers including 96 partners and has a regional footprint that spans across six ASEAN countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia; as well as leading law firms from South Korea and Taiwan. Azman Jaafar, Deputy Managing Partner of RHTLaw Taylor Wessing and the Chairman of the APG said, “We are pleasantly surprised by this development.  This prestigious ranking reflects our determination to lead in Asia.  ASEAN Plus is a group of full-­service and well­ established law firms, with strong local knowledge and international expertise. Collectively, our group represents some of the top Asian corporations.  We are able to handle the most complex cross-border transactions; giving our clients seamless access to integrated legal service in this region.” This second edition of The Lawyer’s South East Asia Elite report highlights the most active law firms in the ASEAN region and is the result of a survey conducted in late 2015 which mainly focused on the firms’ lawyer and partner headcounts, regional footprints, depth of resources, key markets, sector and practice focuses, main clientele and growth strategies. The ASEAN Plus firms are: RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, Singapore Hanafiah Ponggawa & Partners (HPRP), Indonesia PBC Partners & RHTLaw, Vietnam Villaraza & Angangco (V&A Law Firm), the Philippines Siam City Law Offices Limited (SCL), Thailand Azmi & Associates, Malaysia DR&AJU, South Korea Lee & Li, Taiwan
February 4, 2016

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing Partner Nizam Ismail quoted in the Straits Times

RHTLaw Taylor Wessing’s Banking and Finance, and Corporate Partner Nizam Ismail was quoted in an article published in the Straits Times titled “Spotlight now on Swiss bank caught up in 1MBD saga”. The article was first published in the Straits Times on 4 February 2016.   Spotlight now on Swiss bank caught up in 1MDB saga This comes after BSI exec files request with High Court to free up his accounts Source: Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Date: 4 Feb 2016 Author: Yasmine Yahya and Chong Koh Ping Swiss bank BSI has attracted media attention in recent months, after becoming caught up in the controversy surrounding Malaysian state investor 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The latest development came when one of BSI's senior private bankers here - Mr Yak Yew Chee – filed a request with Singapore's High Court for some of his money to be released. It has been reported that several of his bank accounts, containing about $10 million, were frozen as part of investigations surrounding 1MDB Global last September. BSI is a relative latecomer in Singapore's private banking scene, having started business here only in 2010. It created headlines when it was said to have poached about 80 employees from rival private bank RBS Coutts in 2009, in what was the biggest staff move in Singapore's private banking sector at the time. According to the bank's website, it was established in Lugano in 1873, making it one of the oldest Swiss banks. It was bought by Italian insurer Generali in 1998 and was sold to Brazilian investment bank BTG Pactual last year. Its new Brazilian owner kept the BSI brand and identity, using it as a platform to globalise the business. BSI has around US$100 billion (S$142.6 billion) in client assets and about 2,000 employees, according to a newspaper report in July 2014. BSI spokesman Luciano Crobu said its branch in Singapore, located at Suntec City, has about 240 people and is focused on servicing clients in South-east Asia. He added that no one single market accounts for more than 20 per cent of its global assets under management. The bank's chief executive here is Mr Hanspeter Brunner, a Swiss national and a Singapore permanent resident since 2005. BSI might very well be just one of several banks caught up in the 1MDB investigation, which political pundits warn is an issue that Singapore will have to handle with care, given the importance of maintaining good relations with Malaysia. Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, a research fellow at the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, said one approach would be to make it loud and clear that the investigation at this end is being conducted as a matter of upholding the rule of law. "The most viable approach is to focus on the facts, and not on polemics, which is exactly what Singapore is doing now," he added. "It is essential for Singapore not to be tangled up in the volatile domestic politics of Malaysia and not to pass judgments or point the finger at anyone, most notably, the Prime Minister of Malaysia." Dr Alan Chong, a political scientist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, agreed, adding it is also in Malaysia's best interest not to criticise Singapore's investigation and politicise the matter. RHTLaw Taylor Wessing partner Nizam Ismail noted that, regardless, Singapore has to press on with the probe as it is a matter of maintaining its reputation as an international financial hub. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) have their work cut out for them, he added. "In terms of next steps, MAS will ascertain whether banks have complied with anti-money laundering regulatory requirements - to see if their monitoring programme had been sufficiently robust to flag certain transactions as suspicious... to scrutinise decisions taken by the compliance and management teams of banks, and whether the banks had filed suspicious transaction reports," said Mr Nizam. The CAD, meanwhile, may investigate if any person or entity had engaged in money laundering, and possibly follow up with prosecution and confiscation orders in court, he added, noting that this work could take many months. "Money laundering investigations are very complex, especially when it comes to reconstructing money and documentary trails, and obtaining evidence which can be used in court."