“You cannot live without the lawyers, and certainly you cannot die without them,” said Joseph H. Choate, a popular lawyer himself in the 20th century. Truer words have never been spoken – especially when it comes to businesses. Lawyers help companies navigate the complex world of specialisations, such as mergers and acquisitions (M&A), banking, intellectual property, etc.; ensuring that every transaction is done according to the client’s needs and expectations in an efficient and professional manner. Say all the lawyer jokes you want, legal firms are here to stay, especially when the Malaysian economy is expected to grow at least 5% this year bringing about a burst of economic activity to keep most lawyers busy. Top 10 of Malaysia gives a brief take on the nation’s ten leading law firms (listed in no particular order and as polled by Asialaw).
Established in 1999, Albar& Partners quickly grew to be a mid-size commercial law firm in Kuala Lumpur. The award-winning firm’s international reputation in banking, Islamic finance and debt capital market instruments sets it apart from other competitors in the legal market. Other key strengths include project financing, corporate advisory, M&A and commercial litigation. The firm’s founder and Managing Partner, Datuk Syed ZaidAlbar, is recognised as an Islamic Finance legal expert by peers and clients alike and has led the firm in advising the arrangers in the multi-billion dollar Tanjung Bin Energy project financing, and advising the issuers in the multi-billion dollar Petronas Chemicals Initial Public Offering (IPO) and Felda Global Ventures Holding IPO. At the Asian Legal Business Malaysia Law Awards 2014, Albar & Partners and the Managing Partner won 4 awards as Malaysia Law Firm, Projects Energy & Infrastructure Firm, Managing Partner and Deal Maker of the Year 2013.
Wong & Partners
Wong & Partners was set up as a member firm of Baker & McKenzie International in 1998, making the latter the first major international firm to establish a presence in Malaysia. It is the only law firm in the nation that can avail the experience of an international team working harmoniously across 47 countries to execute multi-jurisdictional and multi-language transactions. From a core group of five lawyers, Wong & Partners, which is led by Managing Partner Chew Kherk Ying, has grown to more than 100 lawyers and professional employees. Well regarded for its banking and finance, project finance and tax practices, the firm is consulted by the Malaysian Securities Commission on policies and regulations relating to debt and asset-backed securities, mergers and takeovers. The firm was awarded “Southeast Asia M&A Deal of the Year” last year at the Asian Legal Business Southeast Asia Law Awards for its work in AIA’s acquisition of ING Groep N.V’s Malaysian insurance and Takaful business worth USD1.8 billion.
Cheang & Ariff
Cheang & Ariff is highly respected for their work in litigation practice as well as their solid corporate, capital markets, banking and intellectual property practices. Managing Partner Dato’ Loh Siew Cheang heads the firm’s dispute resolution practice and is recognised as one of the leading litigators in Malaysia with an impressive track record. The 28-year-old firm’s experience in M&A, banking and capital markets garnered clients, such as Ken Holdings and OSK Investment Bank. Cheang & Ariff’s notable intellectual property practice boasts of well-known international clients, including Estee Lauder, Kawasaki, Panasonic, Kenwood and Grand Hyatt. In recognition of its achievements, the firm was awarded the “2012 SMEs Best Brands Award for Best Brands in Services – Litigation & Corporate Advisory”.
Lee Hishamuddin Allen & Gledhill
In January 2005, the partners of Lee Hishammuddin and Allen & Gledhill decided to merge their strengths into one entity. Since then, the multi-practice firm has been making a name in dispute resolution, tax, intellectual property and project finance practices. Senior Partner Datuk D. P. Naban helms the firm’s Financial Services Practice Group as well as Tax, GST & Private Clients Practice Group. The firm has an exemplary track record in winning tax appeals, intellectual property cases and dispute resolutions. Last year, the firm managed an impressive range of cross-border and domestic project financings, Islamic finance transactions and restructurings. Its clients include Maersk, Mercedes-Benz, Levi Strauss, Scania, Tenaga Nasional and RHB Bank.
Tay & Partners
Tay & Partners is a full service commercial law firm that provides a comprehensive range of legal services to business communities in Malaysia and overseas. Touted for having one of the best intellectual property (IP) practices in the country, the firm’s court successes include representing Nestle in two benchmark IP cases. The firm is also praised for its prowess in the real estate market, dispute resolution, corporate and M&A practices. Managing Partner, Tay Beng Chai founded Tay & Partners in 1989 and set up both the Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru offices. He leads the firm in acquiring a formidable list of clients, including AirAsia, AmBank, Citibank, GlaxoSmithKline, Goodyear, Google, Gucci, Honda, Kuok Group, Lion Corporation, Maybank, OCBC, Pfizer Malaysia, Proton and UOB.
Azmi & Associates
Founded by Senior Partner Dato’ Azmi Mohd Ali, who was previously the in-house counsel for Petronas, the firm is well-known for its corporate, M&A and finance work and has grown considerably since its inception in 2000. Its notable clientele include Petronas Gas, Ingress Corporation Berhad, Affin Bank, AmInvestment Bank, OCBC, RHB Bank and Felda Global Ventures. The firm has a China desk that offers services to Chinese-speaking markets, and manages China and Malaysia cross-border deals. In 2013, Azmi & Associates entered into a collaboration arrangement with Indonesian law firm Riza Benny Suyudono (RBS) in a move to capitalise on the trade and commerce opportunities presented by the rapid growth of Indonesia’s economy.
Shearn Delamore & Co has a rich history as one of the oldest law firms in Malaysia. Established in 1905, it now has over 100 lawyers and 280 support staff with 18 partners of the firm being recognised as “Leaders in their field”by Chambers Asia Pacific 2013.Managing Partner Robert Lazar was first made a partner of the firm in 1984 when he was just 27. He has led the firm to win numerous accolades including the Chambers Asia Pacific 2014 Award for Malaysian Law Firm of the Year and the International Financial Law Review 2014 Award for M&A Deal of the Year for the Fraser & Neave contested takeover. The firm is ranked as a Top Tier Firm by The Legal 500 Asia Pacific for banking and finance, corporate and M&A, dispute resolution, industrial relations, intellectual property, Islamic finance, real estate and construction and tax in listing in 2013 and 2014.
Shook Lin & Bok
Founded over 90 years ago by the illustrious lawyer Yong Shook Lin – yes, the one that a road in Petaling Jaya is named after – and Tan Teow Bok, Shook Lin & Bok has evolved into a top-tier law firm involved in complex multi-million dollar transactions spanning the globe. The Singapore office was established in 1964 and is presently a thriving entity with 36 partners, giving the firm a strong regional focus from the outset. Managing Partner Dato’ Cyrus Das, who joined the firm in 1973 as an associate and became a partner in 1979, now heads the General & Civil Litigation department. The firm is widely recognised as being a leader in the areas of banking, dispute resolution, intellectual property, mergers & acquisition and project finance.
Based in Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur, Skrine was established over 50 years ago by John Skrine, Stanley Peddie, William Donald Bewsher, Peter Mooney and Chin Yoong Chong. The latter two are still serving in the firm as a consultant and partner, respectively. Skrine is the exclusive Malaysian member of Lex Mundi and the Pacific Rim Advisory Council, which gives the firm a global reach and access to legal resources to deliver seamless cross-border service.The firm’s corporate division is led by nine partners, which is valued by clients, as these great legal minds from different practice areas come together to offer ‘out of the box’ solutions. The firm is recognised as being first tier in corporate and M&A, dispute resolution, intellectual property, IT and telecoms, projects and energy, and real estate and construction practices. Its stellar client roster includes Etiqa Insurance, Mitsubishi, Bursa Malaysia and Petronas.
Zaid Ibrahim & Co
From its humble beginnings of being established above a Kuala Lumpur bicycle shop in 1987, Zaid Ibrahim & Co has developed into a prominent network of integrated legal services in ASEAN known as ZICOlaw, with presence in eight out of ten ASEAN countries. History was made when Zaid Ibrahim & Co became the first local law firm to advise the Malaysian Government when the country embarked on the privatisation of public sectors in the 1980’s. Currently helmed by Chew Seng Kok, who is the Regional Managing Partner of ZICOlaw and also the Managing Partner of Zaid Ibrahim & Co, the firm is a regional leader in the fields of privatisation, capital markets, Islamic Finance and cross border mergers and acquisitions with key clients such as Ernst & Young, Axiata and Celcom.