#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Jaikanth Shankar, Davinder Singh Chambers
Jaikanth undertakes a broad range of work in the areas of international commercial arbitration, commercial litigation, investigations and insolvency.
He regularly appears before the Singapore Courts and has also been involved in arbitrations under several institutions including the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). He has also conducted a number of ad hoc arbitrations.
Jaikanth has handled several joint venture and shareholder disputes, claims involving fraud, cases concerning breaches of directors’ duties, complex contractual and commercial disputes as well as insolvency-related disputes. Jaikanth has acted for high-profile clients in a number of defamation suits and has handled cases involving white-collar crime and employment disputes.
In this interview, he shared his daily routine as an arbitration counsel and the CEO of Davinder Singh Chambers, key qualities and skills an arbitration counsel should have, importance of mentoring and networking, and more.
Read his full interview below:
Q: What attracted you to a career in international arbitration?
To be very honest, I sort of just fell into it. As a pupil and an associate I was mostly interested in Court work. Along the way, I was given the opportunity to be involved in many interesting domestic and international arbitration cases and my interest in it took off from there.
I enjoy the fact that in arbitration cases, I am up against lawyers I wouldn’t otherwise be up against in litigation in Singapore. I see many different styles of presentation and advocacy. Every case is a learning experience for me.
Q: What do you think are the key qualities and skills an arbitration counsel should have?
Clarity, brevity and judgment.
Clarity: it is critical to be clear in the pleadings, memorials and other submissions, and in any oral presentation, about exactly what your client’s case is, what reliefs your client seeks, what findings you want the tribunal to make and what issues the tribunal needs to / does not need to consider or decide to get you the reliefs you seek.
Brevity: It takes a lot of effort and is a real skill to express your points in a short and simple way.
Judgment: this is perhaps the hardest and it comes with experience and learning from mistakes. At every step of a dispute there are decisions and judgments to be made. One wrong decision or judgment can set you off on the wrong approach. It is important to always pause and think carefully about whether and if so how every decision affects the overall approach and strategy.
Q: Without sacrificing confidentiality, could you share with us the most memorable arbitration or dispute resolution matter you have been a part of?
No one forgets their first, so it would have to be the very first case I did as lead counsel many years ago.
I was defending a fraud claim. It was stressful, difficult, and I am sure I made many wrong calls. It kept me up late at night and over the weekends. But it also made it clear to me that I have a passion for disputes work and want to do this for the rest of my life.
Q: Since you began your career, what has been the biggest change you have seen in relation to the way that arbitration proceedings are conducted?
Two things stand out to me. First, today, it is difficult to secure an evidential hearing of more than 10 days. Second, disputes today frequently involve many witnesses and thousands of documents.
This means that it is impossible for counsel to get through all that material and evidence in the evidential hearing. Counsel therefore has to make difficult judgment calls on which points to pursue and press during cross-examination and which can be left to submissions. Counsel also has to do that within strict guillotines. This also means that written advocacy assumes a far greater significance today.
Q: How would you describe your daily routine as an arbitration counsel and the CEO of Davinder Singh Chambers?
I am a morning person. I get up early and after sending the kids to school, I dive right into my work: emails, drafts, calls etc. On days where I have hearings I get up even earlier to run through arguments for the hearing.
I set aside some time in the evening for admin work. There is a lot of that (and frankly not my cup of tea) but it is essential. I try to keep my evenings as free as I can to spend time with my wife and kids. Somewhere in that mad schedule, if there is time, I try to exercise, whether it is a run or a game of football.
I am constantly trying to look for more efficient ways for us to go about our work so that all the lawyers and staff at the firm can have more time with their families and loved ones.
Q: How might younger legal practitioners best position themselves in the current market? Please share some advice(s) to aspiring individuals who want to pursue a career in ADR.
Be patient, learn, get the foundations right and build up a reputation for providing sound advice and securing good outcomes for the clients. Find your own path and cultivate your own style of advocacy that works for you.
The clients and work will come.
Q: In your experience, how important are mentoring and networking for the development of the field?
Having a good mentor right from the beginning is all important. It gives you the foundation you need and you learn how issues should be analysed and how cases should be presented. My advice to younger practitioners is to identify and work for the individuals they believe will give them that training.
All the skills as arbitration counsel will not be put to any use if you do not have clients. Networking is therefore essential, but there are many different ways to network. The basic idea is to put yourself out there so that clients know you and will consider you when a dispute arises.
Q: Looking back on your career, what has been your proudest achievement?
The establishment of Davinder Singh Chambers in 2019. I was at Drew & Napier for many years before that. When the opportunity of establishing a boutique dispute resolution outfit together with my mentor Davinder Singh presented itself, I embraced it as a challenge. Setting up a firm is no easy task! I am proud to say that we were up and running quite quickly and have a thriving disputes practice. We are blessed and for that we thank our clients, lawyers, staff and friends.
Q: To know more about you on a personal level, share with us 3 fun facts about yourself!
- I am a hard-core Liverpool Football Club supporter, which means I have immense capacity to withstand pain and hardship
- I have broken my nose three times playing football and hockey
- My mathematics is poor, which is why I have given you two and not three “fun facts”
Q: Lastly, what are your fondest memories of Maxwell Chambers?
The first rate service. I could wax lyrical about many things but what stands out is how patient they have been with me for misplacing my access pass (many times).