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GAR 100 - 5th Edition

Rajah & Tann

05 March 2012

The first Singaporean firm in the GAR 100, Rajah & Tann has been building its regional footprint.

Pending cases as counsel:
Value of pending counsel work:
US$4.7 billion
Current arbitrator appointments:
9 (of which 9 are as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:

Rajah & Tann is one of Singapore’s leading full-service firms, founded in 1955. The roots of the international arbitration practice go back to 1999 when Sundaresh Menon (now Singapore’s attorney general) and Chong Yee Leong had a case in Bangkok. Other cases swiftly followed and the pair worked in Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka over the next four years.

In 2003, the entire group moved laterally to Jones Day, with Menon taking the role of head of Asian international arbitration. However, the prodigal lawyers returned between 2006 and 2007, equipped with new international know-how and experience of arbitrations in London, Paris and Geneva. It was at this point that Rajah & Tann created a stand-alone arbitration practice – believed to be the first in Singapore.

Nowadays, the group is led by Chong Yee Leong (following Menon’s appointment as attorney general). In recent years, it has expanded and grown in prominence, thanks in no small part to the Singaporean government’s drive to make the city-state an arbitration hub for parties in South Asia, Indo-China and beyond.


The firm has six offices in Asia: in Singapore, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur and, as of 2011, in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and the Laotian capital of Vientiane.

Meanwhile, internally it is also building specialist groups focusing on Japan, Indonesia and South Asia. On top of that it has affiliations with firms in Indonesia and Cambodia, and with Dubai-based Al Tamimi & Company.

Who uses it?

Clients tend to be construction, engineering and chemical companies, energy firms, mining businesses and governments, plus the odd hotelier, aerospace company and telecoms giant.

One of its biggest matters right now is for Global Steel Philippines against creditors and liquidators of the US National Steel Corporation over the purchase of a steel plant. The dispute is thought to be worth more than US$1 billion.

Other clients in the past year include PT Thiess Contractors Indonesia (in a dispute with Kaltim Prima Coal over mining rights in Indonesia), Singapore Airlines and the government of Laos (as co-counsel with Jones Day).

Track record

In the Global Steel Philippines v US National Steel case, the firm helped the client to prevent closure of the plant via various court and arbitration injunctions.

In another case – demonstrating the degree to which work in Singapore is now “international” – Rajah & Tann helped a Cayman fund defeat claims for specific performance and damages in a joint venture dispute governed by Indonesian law over Libyan oil concessions. The arbitrators ordered more limited relief – a transfer of shares.

The firm also produced good results for a Malaysian consortium against a German contractor (by preventing the enforcement of a US$32 million dispute adjudication board decision on jurisdictional grounds) and a Singaporean client (by reducing a US$56 million claim for fraud and breach of warranty to US$2.5 million).

It also recently won a US$50 million case against a company owned by high-profile Indonesian political and military figures – in a dispute about non-delivery of paper pulp.

Recent events

In 2011, Lam Wei Yaw joined the practice as partner after nearly a decade at international law firms. Another hire was Tetsuo Kurita from Japanese firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, who will help the group raise its profile among Japanese investors in Asia.

Chong Yee Leong was nominated for advocate of the year at the GAR Awards in Seoul.

The firm saw an uptick in work out of Vietnam, prompting it to open in Ho Chi Minh City. It recently filed (with SIAC) the largest claim to emanate from Vietnam to date and is representing the Saigon government in another US$50 million dispute at the centre over an iconic building in Ho Ci Minh City.

India-related work is also on the rise, apparently. Prakash Pillai, who heads the South Asia arbitration team, has handled seven India-related international arbitrations with a total value of approximately US$330 million.

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