Law firm that produced two CJs turns 100

Shook Lin & Bok boasts a sterling history and has made contributions to nation: Indranee

Today, Shook Lin & Bok is a leading full-service law firm with over 100 lawyers.
Today, Shook Lin & Bok is a leading full-service law firm with over 100 lawyers.PHOTO: SHOOK LIN & BOK

In its 100-year history, law firm Shook Lin & Bok, which has produced two Chief Justices, has come to be a part of the Singapore story, having made many contributions in the past.

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Indranee Rajah said at the celebration of its centenary that the firm has added something unique to the rich tapestry that is Singapore and this comes at a time when the Government is positioning the country for more growth opportunities.

"This is a firm with a sterling history," said Ms Indranee, who is also Second Minister for Finance and Education. "The firm's founders set high standards of integrity, quality, commitment, professionalism, mutual respect and collaboration - guiding principles which Shook Lin & Bok's lawyers continue to hold themselves to today," she said at the reception last Friday to mark the milestone.

Cambridge-educated lawyer Yong Shook Lin set up Shook Lin in 1918 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. He was later joined by Oxford-trained Queen's Scholar Tan Teow Bok and the firm became Shook Lin & Bok. Mr Yong's son Pung How returned from Cambridge to join the firm in 1952. Under the latter's management, it became one of the best known and largest law firms in Malaya.

In 1964, Mr Thean Lip Ping, a partner in the firm, came to Singapore to set up what was meant to be a "Singapore branch office".

After the state's separation from Malaysia, Shook Lin & Bok, Singapore became an independent law firm.

The firm progressed rapidly along with Singapore's post-independence prosperity and became one of the country's largest law firms. Today, it is a leading full-service law firm with over 100 lawyers.

"Shook Lin & Bok has produced some prominent members of Singapore's legal fraternity including the former chief justices Yong Pung How and Chan Sek Keong, Justices L.P. Thean, Philip Pillai and Vinodh Coomaraswamy, and Senior Counsel Sarjit Singh Gill," said Ms Indranee.

She held out the firm's active and long-standing outreach abroad as a model, saying it was the first in Singapore to establish a dedicated China practice in 1988. "Our professional services must grow exports of services to regional and global markets in order to enhance Singapore's global market position. Shook Lin & Bok's foray into the Chinese and Indian markets is a good example of how we hope companies can grow in the region."

Its involvement in numerous landmark deals includes Singapore's first flagship project with China in the China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and most recently, Asia's largest private equity buyout ($16 billion) of Global Logistics Properties.

Legal historian and National University of Singapore Law Adjunct Professor Kevin Tan said: "Shook Lin & Bok acquired its awesome reputation and thus attracted many good lawyers primarily because of L.P. Thean and Chan Sek Keong in the late 1970s and early 1980s."

Senior Counsel Sarjit Singh Gill added: "Few firms have enjoyed such longevity and sustained prominence in Singapore."

Retired CJ Chan, a former senior partner of Shook Lin & Bok, said of the firm: "It has to this day maintained its reputation of providing sound legal advice, gaining the trust and support of clients. Added to that, the firm has a young and dynamic partnership to steer it ahead and forge new grounds. I am proud to say that the firm has come a long way."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2018, with the headline 'Law firm that produced two CJs turns 100'. Print Edition | Subscribe