First lawyer in Singapore to be made Queen's Counsel in UK

Dr Ong, a Bruneian lawyer, practises out of Eldan Law LLP in Singapore.
Dr Ong, a Bruneian lawyer, practises out of Eldan Law LLP in Singapore.

A Bruneian lawyer who practises in Singapore created legal history yesterday by becoming the first national from Asean to be appointed a Queen's Counsel.

Dr Colin Ong, 49, has been recognised as "an undisputed superstar" in the market and he is reputed to be exceptionally fast in absorbing points and extremely patient, according to leading legal directories.

He has worked as counsel in major cases in Brunei, the United Kingdom and Singapore, as well as an arbitrator across major cities in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Dr Ong has also been a visiting professor of law for over 20 years at several universities in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

He was awarded the coveted appointment letter from Queen Elizabeth II through the Lord Chancellor of England and Wales at a grand ceremony held at the House of Lords in London yesterday.

Dr Ong told The Straits Times yesterday: "I could not have done this without the opportunities provided by many. I am indebted for the strong support from St Philips Stone Chambers (where he works as a barrister) and am equally grateful to my colleagues and friends from Singapore who have carried me along the journey.

"My family has been my continuing source of strength. "

The QC title is bestowed upon the most capable of English lawyers with proven mastery in law and great ability in courtcraft.

In complex business and commercial disputes, Dr Ong has led teams that have included senior counsel in Hong Kong and Singapore, and other QCs. In Singapore, he practises out of Eldan Law LLP.

Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran lauded his historic feat, and said: "Dr Colin Ong is the first Singapore lawyer to be appointed a Queen's Counsel in the United Kingdom. The Singapore Bar is proud of his unique achievement."

He noted Dr Ong was one of the pioneer thought leaders on Asean cross-border legal convergence in the late 1990s .

Senior Counsel Michael Hwang said: "Although Colin is not a Singapore home-grown talent, he is well known in Singaporean as well as Asean legal circles, and has been involved in many arbitration cases in this region and Asia."

Dean of UniSIM's law school, Professor Leslie Chew, said Dr Ong showed leading Singapore lawyers are considered on a par with the best of the English Bar.

Senior Counsel Chelva R. Rajah recalled that when he began practice 45 years ago, it was the QCs from England who came out to the East to appear in courts here.

"Now we see a movement the other way," he said. "A lawyer practising in our part of the world becoming a QC to be retained to appear in the English courts. It is indeed a brave new world!"

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'First lawyer in Singapore to be made Queen's Counsel in UK'. Print Edition | Subscribe