- Course: LLB Law
- Year of graduation: 1996
- Job title: Managing Director
- Company: Duane Morris & Selvam LLP, Singapore
What made you choose Law, and why Leeds?
There was a single focus on Law from my teens so that was an easy choice for me in terms of what University degree. As for why Leeds – well quite frankly at that point I had to balance the strength of degree along with the overall cost of the programme. I had taken a loan to pursue my overseas education so I had to watch the budget closely. As a foreign student, the fees were quite high and the certainly the cost of living between the South and North of England was fairly significant. In the end, Leeds University presented itself as a fair compromise. Looking back, if I didn’t have those constraints I think I would have still stuck with the North of England – I learnt a lot about the English culture and made many friends. I eventually made my way to the South when I started working in the City – so I think I have been lucky to experience the full breath of England.
How did you find the transition to University life in the UK?
It was fairly easy as I came in as a mature student – having served two and a half years in the Singapore Army as part of the mandatory national service requirement. I was really chomping at the bit to start my university education and so I made it work and did not fuss about the little challenges that may have arisen along the way.
Do you have any lasting memories from your time at the University?
I would say some of the most fun times I had during my higher education days were at University. Independence takes on a new meaning and it is up to you to make the best of it. If you can balance the academics with the social life it really is an amazing journey as you learn so much from the diverse background of students. I formed several lasting friendships and one of my closest friends until today was a then flatmate of mine. His name is Shaukat Ali and he too studied law. He is currently a director in a leading firm in Leeds.
Who influenced you the most during your time studying in Leeds?
Without a doubt, it would be Shaukat. He was also a mature student and we shared a strong bond as our life philosophies were similar. He taught me many things about local life in England and I got to understand the little cultural nuances. Indeed, my decision to stay on and pursue a career as a lawyer in the City was largely due to his positive influence and support.
Tell us about the path you took to becoming Managing Director at Duane Morris & Selvam.
After completing a postgraduate law degree at Cambridge University and the LPC, I started my legal career in London with Freshfields in 1998. After several years I returned to Singapore and continued my career as a corporate finance lawyer with Clifford Chance in Singapore. After about 3 years with Clifford Chance, I joined a boutique corporate law firm, Selvam. As one of the lead partners in charge of the growth and expansion of Selvam, I structured the joint venture with US international law firm Duane Morris. I became Managing Partner of the joint venture firm Duane Morris & Selvam, and have continued to oversee their expansion into Asia. I served as its Chairman for two year-long cycles until 2016.
What does your current role involve?
My current role requires me to manage my day-to-day law practice – I am head of the Corporate Finance and Investment Funds practice groups – and the operations of our office in Myanmar, which I had set up 5 years ago.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
Start as quickly as possible to start enjoying the practice of law or indeed, any vocation you pursue. These days it is fashionable to hop around after several years – that’s fine so long as you enjoy what you do. I only started experiencing the joys of my legal practice about 10 years ago – but I must say that I feel totally blessed to do what I love. I had never I imagined that I would have been able inject love to an existing vocation. For me, the transformation occurred when I completely made my career an extension of my personality. I am entrepreneurial and enjoy mentoring. So I designed my career around that so my self-expression comes out in everything I do. So my advice would be to be bold to express all facets of your personality in everything you do, especially your career.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
I volunteer my time as Chairman of a professional football club and also as a board member of a couple of charities – one involves social innovation and the other involves kids at risk. I enjoy being with young people and to the extent possible, guiding and mentoring them. I also enjoy collecting and restoring classic sports cars.