Top litigator Davinder Singh to leave Drew & Napier and set up own firm

Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who was in the pioneer batch of senior counsel appointed in 1997, is widely considered Singapore's top litigator.
Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who was in the pioneer batch of senior counsel appointed in 1997, is widely considered Singapore's top litigator.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Top litigator Senior Counsel Davinder Singh is leaving Drew & Napier after 37 years.

An announcement on the law firm's website on Thursday (Jan 24) said that 61-year-old Mr Singh has decided to leave the firm to start his own practice and to train young lawyers.

He will be joined by Drew & Napier directors Jaikanth Shankar and Pardeep Singh Khosa.

Two years ago, as chief executive officer (CEO), and without being asked, he initiated the leadership renewal process and appointed a new CEO, according to the announcement, which was jointly made by the firm and Mr Singh.

He was asked to stay on as executive chairman with no retirement age.

"Renewal in the commercial world cannot meaningfully take place under a shadow. If you train the young to take over, you must trust them to do so," said Mr Singh.

"I have overseen the transition and am convinced that the new team is ready and the firm is in capable hands. I therefore believe that it is the right thing to do to move on. I am also very blessed to be able to do that at a time of my choosing."

 
 

Senior Counsel Cavinder Bull, who was appointed CEO in August 2017, will continue in the role, assisted by deputy CEO Sushil Nair.

Mr Bull expressed the firm's gratitude to Mr Singh, Mr Shankar and Mr Khosa.

"They will always count as our closest and dearest friends and we wish them the very best in the next stage of their careers," said Mr Bull.

Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim will assume the role of chairman of the board while continuing as the managing director of the dispute resolution department of the firm.

Mr Singh, who was in the pioneer batch of senior counsel appointed in 1997, is widely considered Singapore's top litigator. He was once described by Asia Pacific Legal 500 as being "without peer at the bar".

In 2014, he received the Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession award from Chambers & Partners, an international award given to individuals for their exceptional achievements and significant impact on their market.

At the inaugural The Asian Lawyer Emerging Markets Awards 2014, he was named "Disputes Lawyer of the Year" for South-east Asia and India. The publication described him as one "who is feared in Singapore as the city's most powerful litigator".

Last year, he was named Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year by Asian Legal Business.

Closer to home, Mr Singh is known for representing founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and scoring court victories against opposition politicians Tang Liang Hong, Chee Soon Juan and foreign media outlets like The Economist, Bloomberg and the New York Times.

He represented Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a defamation lawsuit against blogger Roy Ngerng for suggesting that PM Lee had misappropriated Central Provident Fund savings. During a hearing to assess the amount of damages he has to pay PM Lee, Mr Ngerng broke down while he was being cross-examined by Mr Singh.

Mr Singh also defended Singapore Press Holdings in a lawsuit brought against the newspaper publisher by Mr T. T. Durai, then CEO of the National Kidney Foundation, for defamation in an article that said he had a gold-plated tap installed in his office.

Mr Durai threw in the towel on the second day of the trial.

Recently, Mr Singh represented Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council in the lawsuit against three Workers' Party MPs and two other Aljunied-Hougang town councillors for alleged breaches of fiduciary duties. A court decision is pending.