New Attorney-General Lucien Wong offers fresh perspective, say lawyers

Extensive experience in corporate law will be invaluable, they say; formidable, creative legal mind, says Law Society

Lucien Wong begins his three-year term in office from Jan 14, succeeding Attorney- General V.K. Rajah. PHOTO: LUCIEN WONG
Lucien Wong will be suceeding Attorney- General V.K. Rajah (left). Solicitor- General Lionel Yee (centre) will move up and share the No. 2 post with Deputy A-G Tan Siong Thye (right).

With his extensive experience in corporate law at the head of Singapore's largest law firm, Mr Lucien Wong will provide a fresh perspective when he takes over as Attorney-General in January, lawyers said yesterday.

While Mr Wong will be the first A-G who has not spent time on the Bench or at the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC), veteran criminal lawyer Shashi Nathan said he is a well-respected corporate lawyer with top-rate credentials.

"Sometimes, a fresh or a different approach to things will be useful," Mr Nathan added.

Others also pointed to Mr Wong's stellar legal career that has seen him forge a reputation as a top corporate lawyer. He has more than 30 years of experience in legal practice, specialising in banking, corporate and financial services. Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming said in terms of repute and ability, Mr Wong had "few equals in the legal profession".

Speaking to The Straits Times yesterday, Law Society president Thio Shen Yi said Mr Wong - now chairman and senior partner at Allen & Gledhill - is a "well-known corporate visionary". "In a fast-changing world in which legal services are going to be disrupted, his quality of vision and understanding of the cutting edge will be extremely relevant," he said.

The lawyers were responding to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) yesterday that announced Mr Wong, 63, will succeed Attorney-General V.K. Rajah, 59, as the Government's top legal adviser and public prosecutor.To help in the transition, Mr Wong will be appointed Deputy A-G on Dec 19.

When he begins his three-year term in office from Jan 14, Solicitor-General Lionel Yee, 50, would move up and share the No. 2 post with Deputy A-G Tan Siong Thye.

The statement did not say who would replace Mr Yee as Solicitor-General. The Solicitor-General assists the A-G with his duties.

Mr Wong began his legal career at Drew & Napier in 1979 after topping his final-year law class at the University of Singapore, now the National University of Singapore.

He then moved to Allen & Gledhill, where he was managing partner from 1998 to 2012.

While some lawyers had noted his absence of experience in criminal law, Mr Thio said the responsibility of an A-G was not just to be top prosecutor, but also to be legal adviser to the Government. "What is important is to have a good team of senior officers with wide experience in different areas, which (Mr Wong) will have," he added.

Mr Wong is also chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. He is on the board of Singapore Press Holdings as well.

The Law Society, in a separate statement, said Mr Wong brings to his new office a "formidable and creative legal mind", and pledged to support him in his new role.

Its spokesman also lauded Mr Rajah for his work as A-G, adding that the legal fraternity was looking forward to his return to the Bar.

The PMO statement noted, among other things, that Mr Rajah directed the legal work on Singapore's negotiations with Malaysia on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail. The AGC, under his leadership, also gave legal support for the successful negotiation of significant international agreements, it added.

Mr Rajah had also called for community sentences for less serious crimes. "He is well-respected for his work ethic and sense of compassion and fair play," said the Law Society spokesman.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2016, with the headline New Attorney-General Lucien Wong offers fresh perspective, say lawyers. Subscribe