Over 50 Singapore-based corporate lawyers have proven to be among the most influential and innovative in the region, according to an inaugural list by Legal 500.
The country's lawyers made up 52 of the top 120 in-house counsel named in the GC Powerlist: Southeast Asia, which featured the Asean countries except Laos.
Singapore has the largest group of lawyers on the list, followed by Malaysia with 16 and Indonesia with 15.
Among the in-house lawyers recognised for their outstanding work are Singapore Press Holdings' (SPH) Ms Ginney Lim, McDonald's Singapore's Mr Faz Hussen, Sentosa Development Corporation's Ms Theresa Low and CapitaLand's Ms Michelle Koh.
Today, general counsel have a remit that extends well beyond the traditional role of legal advisers... They are expected to provide vital input and new strategies for a variety of tasks when conducting business domestically and internationally.
MR DOMINIC WILLIAMS, who led the research for the GC Powerlist series.
Some who made it to the new list
MS GINNEY LIM
Singapore Press Holdings general counsel Ms Lim helped set up SPH's legal department and has been with the company since 1992. She has had to cope with the company's diversification into different business segments.
She also oversees risk management, compliance, sustainability, corporate communications and corporate and social responsibility for the group.
MR WAN KWONG WENG
Mapletree Investments group general counsel After joining in 2009, Mr Wan was asked to build up the company's legal department at a time when it was expanding dramatically.
A lawyer with substantial experience in real estate transactions, he impressed with his work on the acquisition of the Festival Walk shopping mall in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
MS GERALDINE LIM
Heineken Asia Pacific regional legal director Ms Lim began her role at Heineken in 2013 after its acquisition of Asia Pacific Breweries (APB).
As the then general counsel of APB, she was involved in its de-listing and integration process.
She leads a team of three lawyers at Heineken.
Legal 500 - a global legal rankings publication which has been studying law firms across more than 100 jurisdictions for 29 years - said its research team gathered nominations, and spoke to law firm partners and in-house counsel across the region, before finalising its list.
Selection criteria include developing technical solutions to complex issues and creating innovative structures to drive businesses forward.
"Today, general counsel have a remit that extends well beyond the traditional role of legal advisors," said Mr Dominic Williams, who led the research on the GC Powerlist series.
"They are expected to provide vital input and new strategies for a variety of tasks when conducting business domestically and internationally," he said.
Many companies also believe that the in-house counsel's abilities to analyse issues from an ethical and objective perspective have helped to bring unique insights on strategic decisions, added Mr Williams.
President of the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) Wong Taur-Jiun told The Straits Times yesterday that while the rankings shows that in-house lawyers remain in demand, it is crucial not to take the work that Singapore has received for granted.
He said it is crucial "to ensure a large enough talent pool of highly qualified in-house counsel who are able to work not only in Singapore but anywhere in the region".
A new nationwide competency framework for in-house lawyers, which was announced in parliament last Friday, will aim to raise industry standards, added Mr Wong.
The South-east Asia list - the first of its kind - is among Legal 500's latest additions to the GC Powerlist series, which was started about four years ago.
In 2014, the first and only list for the Asia-Pacific region for the series was published.
Ms Lim, who has been with Singapore Press Holdings for about 25 years, was previously also named in the Corporate Counsel 100: Asia Pacific list.
She is also SPH's group company secretary and executive vice-president of corporate communications and corporate social responsibility.
Said Ms Lim yesterday: "This honour should be attributed to my bosses and colleagues in SPH who have given me their unstinting support and encouragement over the years."
Mr Hussen is director of legal, government relations and communications at McDonald's Singapore.
Since joining the fast-food chain as general counsel in 2015, he has had to look for new ways to search, recruit and retain employees in the wake of the increasingly strict quotas on migrant labour in Singapore.
"My role goes far beyond legal and compliance; you need to be someone who helps to grow the business as opposed to just advising," he told The Straits Times.
Mr Hussen also said that it has been a "privilege for me to work for a brand that I grew up with and loved as a child".
"If you told 10-year-old me that I would be a director in McDonald's, he'd never stop smiling," he added.