#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Wendy Lin, WongPartnership LLP


#10QuestionswithMaxwell Interview Series: Wendy Lin, WongPartnership LLP

In this #10QuestionsWithMaxwell interview, we feature Wendy Lin, Deputy Head of Wong Partnership’s Commercial & Corporate Disputes Practice

Wendy has an active practice spanning a wide array of high-value, multijurisdictional and complex commercial, fraud and asset recovery disputes before the Singapore Courts, as well as in arbitrations conducted under various arbitral rules. Wendy is widely recognised as one of the top enforcement / asset recovery practitioners in Singapore; she is one of two ranked Global Elite Thought Leaders (reserved for 5% of those ranked across the world by Who’s Who Legal) in Asset Recovery, and the sole fellow of the International Academy of Financial Crime Litigators, based in Singapore.

In addition to her busy practice as counsel, Wendy also sits as an arbitrator in cases administered by the SIAC, ICC and HKIAC. Wendy is a member of the Singapore Academy of Law’s Law Reform Committee, and was Co-Chair of the YSIAC Council from 2019-2024.

In this interview, Wendy shares her experiences and journey in arbitration, advice for younger aspiring arbitrators, 3 fun facts about herself, and more.

Read her full interview below:

Q: What motivated your decision to enter the legal profession and specialize in international arbitration?

I realized through doing moots at university and representing NUS at the Jessup Moot that I very much enjoyed litigating: digesting the facts of a case, locating persuasive authorities, working out my best points, seeking to diffuse weak ones, and importantly, crafting a persuasive case theory that works no matter how many questions / attacks are thrown my way. I knew I would only want to be a disputes practitioner since then given the thrill and satisfaction I got each time from this dynamic process.  

After I started practice, I discovered that international arbitration work was able to provide me with even more than I had expected: I consistently had to adapt to clients, opponents and arbitrators from a myriad of jurisdictions and to learn to handle cases governed by different governing laws.

Q: How did you get your first arbitrator appointment?

SIAC is very supportive of younger, up and coming practitioners. They gave me my first appointment in 2017 – it was a relatively small case that ended up requiring a lot of work, helped me hone my skills in managing particularly difficult aspects of a case as an arbitrator, and gave me my first award!

Q: Can you share with us a memorable dispute you’ve been involved in?

It was one of the first few arbitration cases that I worked on.  I learnt from it, as I have shared over the years with many colleagues, that a dispute is never over until it is finally over.

We were instructed on the arbitration in late 2009. It concerned a dispute between the buyers and sellers (liquidators and secured creditors) of one of the largest steel plants in Southeast Asia. The tribunal had already been constituted when we were instructed, and while our client had a decent case on liability, we had a very difficult hearing as the tribunal appeared to be against our clients on most if not all points. However, on the issue of quantum, the claimants chose to pitch their case solely as one for loss of profits – yet they faced significant difficulties in proving causation, namely, that but for the respondents’ breach in failing to provide clean title to the steel plant, they would have made some US$368m in profits from the plant. The tribunal found the claimants failed to prove their claim for loss of profits, but surprisingly went on to award the claimants some US$80m for their loss of opportunity to make such profits.  That case was never squarely run by the claimants and our clients did not have the chance to address the tribunal on what was the “opportunity” that was supposedly lost (the Tribunal assessed this at 55% without any apparent analysis and without submissions having been sought and made on it).

We applied to the Singapore Courts to set the award aside. The High Court set aside the award in its entirety. On appeal, the Court of Appeal set aside the quantum aspect of the award on grounds that the Tribunal acted in breach of the rules of natural justice, but did not set aside the liability aspect (AKN and another v ALC and another [2015] 3 SLR 488). This meant the claimants had a pyrrhic paper victory (winning on liability but with no damages awarded). The claimants thus wanted to commence a fresh arbitration against the respondents but their claims were time-barred. They therefore sought permission from the Court of Appeal to (among other things) exclude the time between the commencement of the arbitration and the Court of Appeal’s judgment from the calculation of the applicable limitation period. The Court of Appeal refused the claimant’s application as (i) it was an abuse of process to allow the claimants to re-litigate the issue of the quantum of damages that they should be entitled to for the respondents’ breach; and (ii) the claimants failed to ask the High Court for such an order, and cannot be permitted to raise this for the first time on appeal (AKN and another v ALC and another [2016] 1 SLR 966).

The entire dispute finally came to a conclusion sometime in 2021. So what started off as a terrible case and outcome for my clients turned into a significant victory for them after more than 10 years of litigation.

Q: Do you have a mentor or an influential figure that you look up to throughout your career?

Yes, the late Mr Alvin Yeo SC, who was the Senior Partner of Wong Partnership. I was fortunate to work with Alvin for over 13 years. From him, I learnt not only how to advance a client’s case forcefully but how to do so with grace and integrity, and in turn earn the respect of clients, tribunals and even opponents. He also once taught me to remember that practice is a marathon and not a sprint and I should take and enjoy the breaks when I get them to ensure I have the stamina to go the distance.

Q: Looking back, how have your experiences in different arbitration matters contributed to your growth as a professional and shaped your approach to future disputes?

The beauty of an international arbitration practice is that you are often before arbitrators and across opponents who are from different jurisdictions and legal backgrounds. That really forces you to be on top of your game; your advocacy skills have to be extremely sharp so you can remain persuasive to arbitrators regardless of their backgrounds and are able to hold on your own against leading arbitration / disputes practitioners from around the world. I also learnt how to manage clients from different cultural backgrounds. All in all, I would say arbitration has helped make me a well-rounded and highly nimble and adaptable disputes practitioner.

Q: Reflecting on your career thus far, what has been your proudest achievement? 

I am fortunate to have been involved in many high stakes cases since I began practice. This includes a number of landmark arbitration-related cases before the Singapore Courts. In addition to the AKN v ALC decisions mentioned above, I also secured as lead counsel another rare setting aside by the Singapore Court of Appeal of an over US$525 million arbitration award arising from the sale and purchase of shares in one of Southeast Asia’s leading renewables companies based in Thailand (CBX and another v CBZ and others [2022] 1 SLR 47). This was again an award issued in a complicated long-running arbitration case which fortified my view that a dispute is never over until it is over!

Q: What advice would you offer young legal practitioners looking to establish themselves in today’s market and pursue a career in ADR? 

Do and learn as much as you can in the first few years of your career. There is simply no replacement for pure hard and good work. From there, you will gain a reputation for being an excellent lawyer and one thing will then lead to another.

Q: Have there been any sacrifices on your journey to success, and if so, is there anything you would have done differently? 

Yes. Practice is not easy; this means I have had to (like many others) constantly try to balance work and personal life. The personal aspect (such as spending time with family and friends) of my life suffered especially in the early years of my career. I am thankful my supportive family, partner and friends have not abandoned me and are instead proud of the successes I have achieved in my career. In short, and only because of them and my wonderful colleagues, I largely would not have done anything differently. Perhaps I would have just told my younger self to take a bit more to prioritise my own needs.

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

A performer! Hopefully a singer or a musical performer, but if not, in the entertainment industry in some capacity.

Q: Lastly, could you share 3 interesting facts about yourself that many people may not know? 

1. I love vanilla ice cream! It is what I would be eating when working late nights preparing for hearings. When I travel, it is the one item I would be on the constant lookout for as I am obsessed with finding the best vanilla ice cream in the world.

2. I watch Korean dramas to unwind at the end of a long day.

3. I love cross-examination. It is absolutely my favorite part of practice!

Wendy on her travels 


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