Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, Second Minister for Finance and Education, at the Shook Lin & Bok Centenary Cocktail Celebration, 21 September 2018, The Westin Singapore21 Sep 2018
Mr Chan Sek Keong, the former Chief Justice
Justice Chao Hick Tin
Dr Philip Pillai
Mr Sarjit Singh Gill SC of Shook Lin & Bok
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here today to commemorate this very special milestone – Shook Lin & Bok’s 100th anniversary.
Shook Lin & Bok’s History
1. This is a firm with a sterling history. A century ago, a young graduate from Cambridge University, Yong Shook Lin, set up his own practice under the style of Messrs Yong Shook Lin, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. The practice was one of the earliest to be established by a Malayan-born advocate and solicitor.
2. In 1938, Yong Shook Lin was joined by Tan Teow Bok, a Queen’s scholar who read law at Oxford University. Shook Lin & Bok was formed.
3. Yong Shook Lin’s son, Yong Pung How, returned from Cambridge to join the firm in 1952. Under Yong Pung How’s management, the firm became one of the largest and best-known law firms in Malaya.
4. Then in 1964, one of the firm’s partners, Thean Lip Ping, better known as LP Thean, came to Singapore to set up what was meant to be a “Singapore branch office” of the Malaysia-based firm. The firm progressed along with Singapore’s post-independence prosperity and became one of Singapore’s largest law firms. Today, the firm is a full service law firm with over 100 lawyers.
5. Along the way, Shook Lin & Bok has produced some prominent members of Singapore's legal fraternity. This includes the former Chief Justices Yong Pung How and Chan Sek Keong, Justices LP Thean, Philip Pillai and Vinodh Coomaraswarmy, and Senior Counsel Sarjit Singh Gill.
6. Shook Lin & Bok actively ventured into regional markets as early as the 1980s and was the first in Singapore to establish a dedicated China Practice in 1988. This was followed by the ASEAN and India practices. Today, the firm has built good relationships with other leading law corporations throughout the region.
Shook Lin & Bok’s strong foundations in Singapore
7. Looking back at Shook Lin & Bok’s journey, we see the strong foundations and the rich heritage upon which the firm is built.
8. 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.
9. The firm has put down deep roots in Singapore and the region, and this has enabled it to weather pandemics, market recessions, regional and global financial crises, all whilst continuing to flourish. Firms like Shook Lin, with long histories, rich legacies and strong talent are part of the Singapore story and our progress as a nation.
10. Next year, we will be commemorating Singapore’s bicentennial - 200 years from the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles. However, our story goes back even further than that - 700 years since the original founding by Sang Nila Utama. It has been a 700-year journey in time and space, where different people from different places of origin and races have joined us at different times. Yet all have stayed and made Singapore their home, each adding something unique to the rich tapestry that is Singapore. This too is the story of your firm - you set up here in 1964 but you have become an essential part of the Singapore story, having contributed to our past, and now being very much part of our future.
Positioning for the Future
11. Speaking of which, let me say something about the future because I think that would be interest to those of you who are lawyers.
12. The economic centre of gravity of the world is shifting to Asia. ASEAN in particular, provides unprecedented opportunities, driven by increasing urbanisation and a rising middle class. In infrastructure projects alone, the Asian Development Bank estimates around US$26 trillion to be spent in Asia over the next 15 years. These regional developments present tremendous opportunities for the professional services industry, including legal services.
13. Our firms are well-positioned to capture the increasing regional demand. Singapore is already a reference market for complex, cross-border projects, and our professional services are trusted for their deep specialised expertise and understanding of industries and markets across the region.
14. Over the last few years we have been steadily and consistently positioning Singapore to take capture these growth opportunities. Our vision for Singapore is to be a global exchange for international commercial transactions and professional services. It should be the place where it all comes together.
15. So, we are strengthening our position as a dispute resolution hub with SIAC, and more recently SICC and SIMC. Maxwell Chambers which is already recognised as a world leading arbitration facility is set to triple its current size.
16. With legislative amendments similar to that of the US Bankruptcy Chapter 11 provisions, we are enhancing our position as a global international debt structuring centre.
17. We are currently implementing the recommendations of the IP Masterplan to establish ourselves as the IP Hub for Asia.
18. To ride on the potential growth driven by infrastructure needs, we are working on being the Infrastructure Hub for Asia, Enterprise Singapore and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have set up a new agency, Infrastructure Asia, which aims to connect supply and demand in the infrastructure space. Infrastructure Asia’s Mission is to convene and consolidate knowledge and networks to help catalyse projects in the region. This will be a helpful platform for Singapore law firms and their clients to connect with local and international players across the infrastructure value chain.
19. To further strengthen Singapore’s position as a global professional services hub, the Government, in collaboration with industry, has the Professional Services Industry Transformation Map (or ITM for short). The ITM encourages Singapore-based firms to boost their competitiveness through three thrusts.
20. First, Innovation and Technology. We want Singapore firms to capitalise on the exciting growth opportunities generated by technological developments. We are encouraging firms to leverage technology to raise productivity and add value to their services. For example, by using artificial intelligence to identify anomalies in document review, or by developing online tools for clients to access information and interact with the firm.
21. Second, Talent Development. As clients know, the quality of professional services is determined by the quality of the professionals. We are encouraging our firms to continually invest in talent development, to enhance the skillsets of our professionals. This will allow firms to better meet the increasing demands for complex and specialised services.
22. The Government will be supporting Singaporean professionals in deepening their skills and qualifications for high growth areas. For example, Singaporean lawyers can apply for the SkillsFuture Study Awards to pursue the SAL-INSEAD Law Firm Leadership Programme to deepen leadership skills, or the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme to seek qualifications as solicitors of England and Wales.
23. We also encourage local lawyers and firms to partner overseas firms to deepen their understanding of regional markets. I am glad to see that Shook Lin & Bok is already doing so, with its close network of Asian firms.
24. Third, Internationalisation. 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.
25. To be part of and thrive in the future, law firms must embrace change, innovate and invest in their people. To this end, I am heartened to see that Shook Lin & Bok has adopted a forward-thinking and calibrated approach that builds on its strengths.
26. Congratulations once again to the firm on your 100th anniversary. I wish the firm every success as it embarks on its next 100 years!
27. Thank you.