Senior Director
Corporate, Banking & Finance Department
Head – Corporate Finance, Mergers & Acquisitions Practice Group
Australian Legal Practitioner, New South Wales

Tel: +(65) 6622 3837
Send email

I started as a law teacher at the Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore after my graduation from the University of Singapore in 1980. The boredom of classrooms and the attraction of a Canadian scholarship (with no strings attached) induced me to pack my bags for the great white north – Canada.

Amidst the shores of Lake Ontario with sporadic dips into the icy lake and frequent visits to Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the Lake and New York City, I completed my Master of Laws thesis on Corporate Finance, International Business Transactions and Banking.

Those carefree days are a distant memory as I pick up my pen to write this short note. I am now into my twenty-fourth year of practice (can it really be twenty-four years!).

I began my practice at Freshfields. In those days before the expression “Magic Circle Firm” was in vogue, Freshfields was referred to as a leading City of London Firm or the Bank of England’s Lawyers.

Even though twenty-four years have gone by, I will never forget the first day at work in Freshfields. I was sitting at my office and just after nine in the morning, the resident partner walks into my office and greets me and welcomes me. I greet him “Good Morning, Mr. Davies” but he stopped me abruptly and told me to address him as James and not Mr Davies and without a pause he whipped out a strange-looking pale green document and told me that this document was referred to as Freshfields standard form J4 – a bible, he told me, for syndicated financing transactions.

He told me in a firm manner that he expected me to “navigate” (those were his exact words) through the document as he was going to involve me in the afternoon in a US$20 million syndicated lending facility involving a Malaysian borrowing group.

It was only quarter past nine in the morning on the first day of my practice and was completely crest fallen and shaken up. I was more used to syndicated newspaper columns in the North American press when I was living in Canada than syndicated loan facilities. I was worried for my future and thought my days with Freshfields were going to be numbered as I had heard rumors in the market that Freshfields was a tough and challenging place and that they were driven by the slogan “shape up or ship out”.

My misery was compounded when I found to my horror J4 was a completely incomprehensible document. At 2.30pm on the same day I was told by the secretary of James (the resident partner) to join the meeting. Terror enveloped me but thank god I was the third member (the junior most) of the team and I didn’t have to say a word at the meeting.

But thankfully I survived Freshfields and J4. I consider myself very fortunate to have spent my formative years in Freshfields. It was a beginning of a very exciting professional life. It has been my good fortune to have been able to practice as a lawyer in Singapore, London and Hong Kong and to have travelled extensively in my profession. Here I am, after twenty-four years, writing this piece with fond memories of my first day at practice and my practice generally.

The practice of law has never been more challenging than now. Clients have become very demanding and price sensitive. The technological revolution has made for a more efficient world but at what cost to work life balance. The technological revolution was initially difficult for lawyers especially the more senior ones like me who started out at a time when the clatter of telex machines and typewriters were the order of the day.

I am blessed to be part of this Firm. My partners work for one another and are always there for one another. We have a great bunch of young lawyers whom, I believe, are genuinely destined for a great career ahead of them.

Looking back over the years I recall a very busy, hectic and (by and large) a happy life as a lawyer.  Who knows I may have even impressed Mr James Davies by keeping my mouth shut at the meeting involving the US$20 million syndicated facility transaction on the first day of my practice.

The practice of law has become challenging and complex and consumes almost all of my waking hours. Notwithstanding this I believe it is still as much fun.

Recent Publication
"Take-overs and Mergers", 2010, 2nd edition, published by Lexis Nexis.
Read the book review by Professor Walter Woon in the Singapore Law Gazette, February 2011 here.