A case for making it to ranks of best law firms

Singapore's Best Law Firms 2022 saw 101 law firms listed in 17 categories, with 25 law firms appearing for the first time. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Included in Singapore's Best Law Firms 2022 list among big and familiar names is a little-known firm that was established only in December last year.

BTPLaw LLC, like the proverbial mouse that roared, made the list of the best law firms in the Banking and Finance category, one that even some prominent and seasoned players may jostle to get into.

Set up by lawyer Brandon Tee, BTPLaw LLC is arguably the newest firm to hit the Best Firms list in the shortest time from its formation.

Mr Tee, who started his legal career in 2013 and has also worked elsewhere, said when contacted last month: "I decided to set up my own firm and then I went from having zero lawyers working for me to having five lawyers working for and with me, with the headcount expected to grow."

Now in its second edition, Singapore's Best Law Firms 2022 saw 101 law firms listed in 17 categories, with 25 law firms appearing for the first time.

Several firms earned spots in more than one category.

The new edition of the list was dominated by the Big Five that chalked in the most appearances in the 17 categories.

Rajah & Tann headed the list, appearing in 16 out of the 17 categories. The 17th category exclusively involves international firms with an offshore practice based in Singapore.

The firm's remarkable feat comes as it celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.

Allen & Gledhill bagged awards in 15 categories while Drew & Napier and WongPartnership scored in 14 categories.

Registering one category fewer was Dentons Rodyk, Singapore's oldest law firm.

Together, these firms make up the Big Five - heavyweight firms with a lawyer headcount of about 200 or more.

But smaller and boutique firms also made firm imprints such as in the Criminal Law category.

The top five names there - Trident Law, Regent Law, Peter Low & Choo, Eugene Thuraisingam LLP and Kalidass Law Corporation - effectively snuffed out the big players on the list.

Other categories where smaller firms made bigger impacts included Family Law and Negligence.

It is tempting to look at the Big Five firms as being similar to the big five football clubs dominating the English Premier League, rotating the championship among themselves year after year through sheer skill and outfit strength.

But some points bear reflection.

Being the best law firm does not necessarily equate with being the most successful. You could measure success based on per capita revenue, and it is any layman's guess who would top that list.

Some United States media report the largest law firms ranked there, based on revenue.

But the value of ST Best Law Firms 2022 cannot be understated.

Among other things, it helps in identifying the go-to persons for specialised help.

"When choosing an external lawyer, the most critical parameter is the right expertise," said Singapore Corporate Counsel Association executive director Mel Nirmala. "That includes high legal knowledge, hands-on experience, and a specialised understanding of the specific industry that the company operates within."

The ST/Statista survey of the best law firms helps in-house counsel and businesses have a better overview and more insights on commercial aspects.

"The valuation allows internal teams to make better choices," explained Ms Nirmala.

As Singapore's best law firms consolidate their standing with this survey and more in the years ahead, the familiar names are reassuring and boost the survey's credibility.

But looking ahead - and given the headwinds of strong borderless, on-going competition - the big names will have to ask themselves if they could indeed be the best in the region and beyond, as well as where they fit in such a landscape.

The full results can be accessed at this website.

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