Originating with the fervour and spirited practice of Thampoe Thamby (TT) Rajah and Tann Wee Tiong, we look back to a heritage built on the qualities of our two founders.
CLICK TO READ OUR STORY
Integrity, honour, diligence and compassion, these were the founding values exemplified by TT Rajah and Tann Wee Tiong. These values continue to guide us in our work.
CLICK TO WATCH OUR HERITAGE VIDEO
“Rajah & Tann had rather improbable beginnings for a leading legal practice. Its two founders were motivated to practise law not for material benefit but to employ their knowledge to realise personal aspirations for the common good. Their zeal and passion to do this were forged in the fiery crucible of Asian awakening and Malayan anti-colonial sentiments that followed in the wake of World War II.” — VK Rajah, SC
CLICK TO READ VK RAJAH’S FOREWORD IN FULL
Foreword by VK Rajah, SC
The most crucial assets of a successful legal practice are its people and its culture.
Understanding its past matters since that past would have inevitably informed and shaped its present form. The history of a legal practice is also a valuable beacon for its future. It highlights a unique ethos and foundational core values that if maintained, will consistently ensure and cement its continued success.
Rajah & Tann (R&T) had rather improbable beginnings for a leading legal practice. Its two founders were motivated to practise law not for material benefit but to employ their knowledge to realise personal aspirations for the common good. Their zeal and passion to do this were forged in the fiery crucible of Asian awakening and Malayan anti-colonial sentiments that followed in the wake of World War II. Their implausible journeys to become lawyers and their ensuing trials and tribulations have been well set out in this meticulously researched publication.
R&T now stands firmly within an elite circle of major Singapore legal practices and leads the largest and most prominent ASEAN legal alliance, Rajah & Tann Asia. Over the last three decades it has received countless regional and international accolades in recognition of its legal excellence, human resource practices and proclivity for innovation. Excellence with heart and constant innovation is part of its DNA. How did this happen?
From the outset, the two founders had no ambition to grow their personal practices or to chase profits. They lived frugally. In the process, they left behind an unintentional legacy. The unvarnished values they espoused organically shaped and crafted a unique DNA for R&T. This is the driving force that galvanised it to evolve from a two-person entity to the legal powerhouse that it is today.
On joining R&T as a pupil in 1982, a number of well-meaning peers commiserated with me and shared their concerns about the lack of a potential pathway to handle first-tier legal work. The general consensus was that small practices did not attract the best work. They invited me to join their more prominent practices. Little did they understand that I already had the best available mentor. One who cared deeply and who inspired profoundly. My father. He was a humanist with a first-class mind, a keen desire to download his vast wisdom about practice onto me and the essence of that credo is as follows: maintain an enduring moral compass in all situations; lead by example; ensure clients’ interests always come first; exceed expectations; do good to receive good; innovate pragmatically; think long term. Another fundamental tenet of his life was acknowledging the centrality of staff and according them the respect and courtesy they rightfully deserve. They are after all part of an extended family. These values were not difficult to understand but required tremendous dedication and discipline to rigorously apply and practise. Without him and his uncompromising core values, R&T would not be what it is today.
Like the founders, I did not begin practice with a burning desire to grow a substantial practice. To meaningfully employ my passion for legal practice and to be conferred autonomy was in itself sufficient reward. However, after my postgraduate studies, I started thinking about the future of legal practice and paid particular attention to what was happening in the leading international legal hubs. I understood that as Singapore’s stature as a financial hub grew, axiomatically, the need for first-tier legal support would be essential. Legal service providers with an ability to pragmatically adapt and innovate would thrive. To build a successful legal practice, excellent legal minds had to constantly collaborate for the common good. Collective interests had to be given precedence. Excellence had to be blended with heart and innovation.
What happened next is amply documented in the pages that follow. A key, if not the most crucial, reason for R&T’s transformation is the significant role that the various R&T thought leaders have played in shaping it. They inspired and continue to inspire one another. Trust from colleagues had to be earned and not demanded. Its leaders while they hold office see themselves as stewards of that trust. Leadership is viewed as service and not as a platform for personal advancement and enhancement. Sundaresh inspired his colleagues to excel and regionalise. Steven stabilised the practice and untiringly led by example. Eng Beng and Patrick weathered the constant changes and have creatively collaborated in reshaping R&T and innovating its practices. Above all, R&T is what it is today because of the collective effort of all who have been part of its family. It exemplifies the placing of collective interests above the self.
New chapters about R&T are being written in these demanding times. It has always had the good sense to be an early adopter of technology platforms and a first mover in the use of technology solutions. This will stand it in good stead as it navigates an entirely different thicket of not just domestic but dynamic regional and international challenges.
To continue to be relevant and successful, R&T must be obsessive about the welfare of its people. And as a major legal practice, it also has the responsibility to contribute to and advance Singapore’s interests. Attorney-General Chan Sek Keong, as he then was, remarked while he worked with us on the fallout from the Barings’ debacle that Singapore’s key indigenous legal practices are national assets. He was right. Nevertheless, no legal practice can or should take for granted a promising future by simply resting on its laurels. Different times will call for different responses. The challenge is to evolve with the changing times, while fully honouring and upholding the core enduring values that have always defined R&T and that will guide and bind it for the future.
VK Rajah, SC
First Managing Partner, former Judge of Appeal and ex-Attorney-General
RETURN TO PREVIOUS PAGE
CLICK TO READ MORE OF OUR STORY
Our Firm Today
The commitment to care and excellence is ingrained in Rajah & Tann’s service philosophy.
“The firm’s history has been one where its mission has always been to care for colleagues, care for clients and care for the community. This spirit of caring is part of the DNA of the firm and is exemplified in the lives of our founding partners and past leaders.”
— Patrick Ang, Managing Partner
Thampoe Thamby (TT) Rajah was born on 28 December 1919. His father was a farmer in Chulipuram, a small village near the northern port of Jaffna, Ceylon.
TT’s father died when he was two years old, and through the struggles experienced by his mother and his family, TT came to have deep sympathy for the downtrodden.
Due to straitened circumstances, TT’s early education was marked by stops and starts. After a series of employment stints which included tutoring at a private English school, undertaking secretarial work in a rubber plantation company and becoming Chief Inspector at the Food and Price Control Department of Singapore’s colonial administration, he eventually sat and passed the London Matriculation Examination in 1948. In 1950, he left for London to train as a lawyer using the proceeds from the sale of his family’s farmland in Ceylon.
He returned to Singapore in 1953 after being admitted to the English Bar at Middle Temple that year and was called to the Singapore Bar in the same year.
TT became a public figure, taking on cases for the trade unions, and was much-loved for his willingness to represent humble folk including bus drivers, waiters, glassblowers, and factory hands. He was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act for 18 months and was released in December 1975. Thereafter in 1976, he joined hands with Tann Wee Tiong, and founded Rajah & Tann.
On 13 March 1996, when TT passed away suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 76, the foundation of Rajah & Tann had been established, and its leadership in the hands of a successor who would take it to new heights. The firm mourned and remembered a life well lived.
Tann Wee Tiong
Tann Wee Tiong was born in George Town, Penang, on 11 February 1915 to an optician and a housewife. His father had roots in Medan, Sumatra, but migrated to Penang in 1908 for better business prospects — and also to marry his Penang bride.
He studied at Penang Free School, the alma mater of many top Malaysian leaders and captains of industry, before working as a manager at a dispensary, litigation clerk, and Prosecuting Officer at the Food Control Office in Penang. His plans to read law were disrupted by World War II. He eventually left for London in 1948 and came to Singapore in 1952 after being admitted to the English Bar at the Inner Temple in the same year. He was thereafter called to the Singapore Bar in 1953.
The 1950s to 1960s in Singapore was a period of political activism and economic change. Wee Tiong committed himself to the cause of post-colonial independence and was one of the co-founders of the People’s Action Party (PAP). He served consecutive terms on the PAP’s Central Executive Committee from 1955 to 1959. In 1961, together with TT Rajah, they joined Barisan Sosialis and became its legal advisers.
Wee Tiong withdrew from politics in the 1960s although he continued to represent political activists as defence counsel. He and TT then founded Rajah & Tann in 1976. In 1985, Wee Tiong retired from Rajah & Tann at the age of 70. He continued his passion for the law, practising at his own pace till his passing on 7 December 1998 at the age of 83.
CLICK ON THE SIGNATURES TO READ ABOUT OUR FOUNDERS
Vijaya Kumar (“VK”) Rajah joined Rajah & Tann in 1982 as a pupil and was called to the Singapore Bar in February 1983. He would become the first Managing Partner in 1986. He was appointed Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore in Singapore’s pioneer batch of appointments in 1997, marking the first of several Senior Counsel to fill the ranks of the firm. Under VK’s baton, the firm grew rapidly from a small outfit to more than 150 lawyers in 2003.
VK left Rajah & Tann to accept the appointment of Judicial Commissioner at the Supreme Court of Singapore in January 2004. He became Judge and was later elevated to Judge of Appeal. He subsequently left the Bench to assume office as the Attorney-General of Singapore from 2014 to 2017 before retiring from public service.
Sundaresh Menon joined Rajah & Tann in March 1995. Working closely with VK Rajah and then Steven Chong, who joined in 1998, he guided the firm’s expansion till his departure in January 2003. He returned to the firm in May 2007 after a year as Judicial Commissioner at the Supreme Court of Singapore.
Menon assumed the role of Managing Partner in August 2009, and inspired the firm’s vision of building an ASEAN regional network.
In October 2010, Menon was appointed the Attorney-General of Singapore. In 2012, he took office as Singapore’s fourth Chief Justice, becoming the first non-Chinese Chief Justice of the Republic of Singapore and also the first Singapore-born Chief Justice.
Barings, a 1762 British bank, collapsed under massive losses arising from the fraudulent conduct of its employee Nick Leeson who was based in Singapore. Rajah & Tann was appointed as the legal advisers to the Inspectors from Price Waterhouse who investigated and reported on the affairs of the troubled entity in Singapore. The Barings appointment was one of the most significant insolvency matters handled since the start of the firm’s insolvency practice.
Photo: Nomadic Julien on Unsplash
Steven Chong joined Rajah & Tann in January 1998 which marked the beginnings of the firm’s Admiralty practice that has consistently earned top accolades till today. He was appointed Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 1998.
Steven became the second Managing Partner in 2004. Under Steven’s tenure, Rajah & Tann attracted many talents in its transformation into a full-service firm, reaching a size of 250 lawyers in 2009.
Steven was appointed Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court of Singapore in October 2009 and is presently Justice of the Court of Appeal. He also held appointment as the Attorney-General of Singapore from 2012 to 2014.
Quentin Loh joined Rajah & Tann in August 2001. Prior to his joining, he was Managing Partner of Cooma, Lau & Loh and was appointed Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 1999. He was a specialist in the field of insurance, construction and arbitration.
Quentin was the Deputy Managing Partner during Steven Chong’s term as Managing Partner.
Quentin was appointed Judicial Commissioner to the Supreme Court of Singapore in September 2009. He is presently Judge of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Singapore and the President of the Singapore International Commercial Court. He was also appointed in 2018 as Judge of the Supreme Court of Fiji.
Shanghai – the First Overseas Office
In May 2003, Rajah & Tann set up its first office outside of Singapore in Shanghai to service growing demands of the China market. The Shanghai office is an integral part of the firm’s China services practice and represents the start of the firm’s regionalisation expansion.
Lee Eng Beng
Lee Eng Beng became the sole Managing Partner from 1 October 2010 following his joint appointment with Sundaresh Menon since February 2010. Eng Beng joined Rajah & Tann in 1998 and was appointed Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 2008. He was Managing Partner for three terms, leading the firm to establish its regional network with ten countries in Asia.
He was appointed Chairman of Rajah & Tann Asia in 2014. He stepped down as Managing Partner of Rajah & Tann Singapore in 2019, and continued as Chairman of Rajah & Tann Asia.
Rajah & Tann Asia Network
Rajah & Tann celebrated its inauguration of the Rajah & Tann Asia network and its ambition to be a regional powerhouse in August 2014. With offices across ten countries in the network today, the firm continues to invest vigorously in Asia and to expand its reach to service clients faithfully with the highest standards.
First Female Deputy Managing Partner
Rebecca Chew became the firm’s first female Deputy Managing Partner in May 2016. Many female lawyers like Rebecca continue to develop, lead practices and break new ground. This is testament to the tone from the top that embraces diversity of views, gender, background and culture to bring out the best in every individual.
Law Society President
Partner Gregory Vijayendran was elected the President of The Law Society of Singapore. Gregory, who was appointed Senior Counsel in 2019, has the honour of being the longest serving Law Society President, holding office from 2017 to 2021.
Photo: Courtesy of Law Society Pro Bono Services
Rajah & Tann Technologies
Our technology solutions arm, Rajah & Tann Technologies, was formed to provide innovative legal solutions to clients to meet the demands and challenges of the digital economy.
In the same year and for the incorporation of Rajah & Tann Technologies, Financial Times awarded Rajah & Tann Singapore the Most Innovative Law Firm in the category of Business of Law – Business and Service Delivery Models at its Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Awards.
Patrick Ang became the Managing Partner in March 2019. Patrick joined the firm in 1995 and was appointed the Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of Rajah & Tann Asia since its launch in 2014.
Patrick continues to serve as the Vice-Chairman of Rajah & Tann Asia and steers the firm today with his fellow Partners, emphasising the delivery of effective and high-value solutions to clients.
Rajah & Tann Asia, CMS and Cooley jointly invested as founding members in legal technology start-up Lupl in May 2019 to develop the world’s first global open industry technology platform for legal matters.
In 2021, under a joint initiative with Singapore’s Ministry of Law, Lupl became the country’s national Legal Technology Platform, making Lupl the central fabric for online collaborations on legal matters between law firms, clients, government departments and the judiciary in Singapore.
Rajah & Tann Cybersecurity
In December 2020, Rajah & Tann Technologies entered a joint venture with Resolvo Systems to launch Rajah & Tann Cybersecurity (“R&T Cybersecurity”), a provider of cybersecurity services. Together with R&T Cybersecurity, Rajah & Tann integrates legal and cybersecurity expertise under one roof.
Read Our Story
Rajah & Tann looks back at an eventful history, navigated with conviction and anchored to an unwavering understanding of its mission.
This history has shaped its vision and character. Duty of Care+ tells the story of the firm, its people and the values that ground its past, present and future.
CLICK TO READ OUR STORY
© 2022 Rajah & Tann Asia.
All rights reserved.
Rajah & Tann Asia is a network of legal practices based in Asia. Member firms are independently constituted and regulated in accordance with relevant local legal requirements. Services provided by a member firm are governed by the terms of engagement between the member firm and the client. This website is solely intended to provide general information and does not provide any advice or create any relationship, whether legally binding or otherwise. Rajah & Tann Asia and its member firms do not accept, and fully disclaim, responsibility for any loss or damage which may result from accessing or relying on this website.
Please turn your device.