Interview Series - Amanda Lees

#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Amanda Lees, King & Wood Mallesons

In this #10QuestionsWithMaxwell interview, we feature Amanda Lees, a Partner in Dispute Resolution at King & Wood Mallesons in Singapore. She is also a Mentor for the Maxwell Mentorship Programme (Technology in Alternative Dispute Resolution).

Having been based in Singapore for 10 years and with more than 20 years’ experience in dispute resolution in the region, Amanda is an expert in international arbitration in the Asia Pacific region. She is ranked as a Leading Individual for international arbitration by Legal 500. 

Amanda acts as counsel in large complex commercial disputes across a range of industries and has experience in investor state dispute settlement.  She also sits as an arbitrator regularly including as emergency arbitrator, expedited arbitrator and presiding arbitrator.  Her appointments have involved parties from 18 different jurisdictions represented by a wide range of counsel. She is listed on multiple institutional panels. 

Amanda is a Fellow and Director of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in Singapore and Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. As part of the CIARB Faculty, she has taught international arbitration to hundreds of lawyers and other professionals throughout Asia. 

In this interview, she shares memorable cases she had been a part of, key ingredients to being a good dispute resolution practitioner, importance of mentoring and networking for the development of the field, and more.

Read her full interview below:

Q: How did you get involved in international arbitration and cross border litigation? 

A: Like many, by accident. I started my legal career later after working in health policy for various governments and I intended to become a corporate lawyer (specializing in the health sector) but I did a graduate rotation in litigation and loved it. My time as a junior lawyer coincided with the collapse of one of Australia’s biggest insurers (the HIH Insurance Group) and I was fortunate to act on many of the Liquidators’ disputes with international reinsurers which were subject to arbitration. 

Having become interested in international arbitration, I did the Diploma course with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, got involved in young practitioner groups, did more cross border matters and eventually moved to Singapore in 2012 to specialize in international arbitration.

Q: Share with us a highlight or significant achievement in your legal career.

A: For me, a highlight and achievement has been establishing myself as counsel and arbitrator in Singapore. The arbitration community in Singapore is a wonderful mix of local and international practitioners. It has been great to be a part of and contribute to that community. 

I have been sitting as arbitrator for over 9 years and had more than 20 appointments. I am grateful to SIAC for giving me the initial chance to prove myself as arbitrator. I enjoy the exposure to different counsel, the collegiality with other arbitrators and the intellectual rigour of deciding a case and drafting the award. 

Q: Without sacrificing confidentiality, could you share with us the most memorable case you have been a part of?

A: I have been lucky to be involved in two memorable cases that received media attention. 

I was part of the team that acted for Samsung in the Federal Court of Australia in the Apple-Samsung litigation. At the time it was the highest profile litigation globally, with multiple actions in multiple jurisdictions and bloggers attending the frequent directions hearings in Court. It was high paced, international, and a lot of hard work on cutting edge legal issues. 

More recently I acted for the Republic of Indonesia in the successful defence of a bilateral investment treaty claim as part of a cross cultural and global team. Many trips to Jakarta and meals with the team from the Indonesian government, two hearings at the beautiful Peace Palace in the Hague and appearing as advocate before an eminent tribunal made this a memorable experience. 

Q: What do you think are the key ingredients to being a good dispute resolution practitioner?

A: Some of the key behaviours you need to be a good dispute resolution practitioner are:

• Being curious;

• Being tactical;

• Being accurate;

• Being knowledgeable; and

• Being respectful. 

Q: In your experience, how important are mentoring and networking for the development of the field?

A: Mentoring is important for turning talented young practitioners into future superstars and ensuring that we have a diverse talent pool in the future.  

For me one of the enjoyable aspects of arbitration as a field, is the networking with other practitioners from different countries and cultures. I love meeting people and gaining friends all over the world. On a serious side, you also learn about the nature of your opposing counsel and the arbitrators you may appear in front of in the future.  

Q: You are a Mentor on our Maxwell Mentorship Programme, what is one piece of invaluable advice you would give to our group of Mentees or other younger legal practitioners in entering the alternative dispute resolution field?  

A: Take the opportunity to do some smaller cases where you get to have more responsibility, contact with your client and appear in Court – these are great training. 

Q: As a busy person holding multiple hats, how do you find time for your personal commitments or to indulge in personal pleasures?

A: You work better if you have time away from the desk. I am trying to keep some of the good habits I developed during the pandemic, like walking, by scheduling time in the diary. I keep the lid of the laptop down during the weekend so that I have time with my family and friends. 

Q: If you weren’t in your current profession, what profession would you be in? 

A: University teacher – I find teaching adults, which I get to do through the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, very rewarding.

Q: To get to know you more on a personal level, could you share with us 3 fun facts about you that not many know about? 

A: I first came to Singapore in 1978 on my way back to Australia after living with my parents and sister in Iran. It was a dramatic journey and Singapore was a welcome safe haven. 

I love cooking and will make Australia’s national dessert, the Pavlova, on request. 

I have an honours degree in Mathematics, but I am hopeless at times tables. I am having to re-learn Mathematics to help my teenagers as I refuse to buy them tutoring. 

Q: Lastly, what reminds you of Maxwell Chambers?

A: The chocolates in the arbitrators’ lounge – I am a non-stop snacker during hearings.


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