Min-tze Lean, Partner, Stamford Law Corporation

What was your first-ever job? (prior to becoming a lawyer) I was an English tutor to the general manager of the Singapore branch of a Japanese bank to help make ends meet.

Min-tze Lean
Min-tze Lean

Where did you study? (give dates)

LL.B. (Hons) – National University of Singapore (1992 – 1996)

LL.M. (Intellectual Property) – George Washington University Law School (1999 – 2000)

Where did you train?
I trained under Mr Arthur Loke of Arthur Loke & Partners (now Arthur Loke LLP). At that time, my former firm had a joint venture with an Anglo-French firm called Klein-Goddard Associés (now KGA) – then the French associate firm of Theodore Goddard (now Addleshaw Goddard). One of its senior partners, an English solicitor named John Sell, visited the Singapore office very often and as a young lawyer, I was roped in to assist in their transactions. So from very early in my career, I was exposed to international firms and how they work.
Have you lived or worked outside your home jurisdiction? What did you learn from it?

From 1999 to 2000, I took a Master of Laws in Intellectual Property at the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. After I completed my studies, I also did some clerkships with law firms in Washington D.C.

The most significant take-aways from my time in the U.S. are:

Never be afraid to ask a seemingly basic or silly question. Almost everyone works on the basis of certain assumptions. Basic questions can raise an awareness that the other person may be working off a different assumption!

Keep an open mind. Everyone has a perspective to contribute, and even the wackiest of ideas may help to solve a problem – or at least, lend a different perspective so that the unexpected can be anticipated.

When did you become partner?
I became a director of the Firm in 2003, and a partner of the Firm in 2005
What deal/case in your career stands out the most and why?

The S$5.6 billion sale of the 39.7% effective interest in Asia Pacific Breweries Limited (APB) from Fraser and Neave, Limited (F&N) to Heineken International B.V. (Heineken).

It is amazing that the deal is being closely followed all over the world. The BBC was reporting on the results of the F&N shareholders’ meeting, within minutes of the results being announced!

The strategic nature of the asset has put the world spotlight on corporate Singapore, and it was quite a roller coaster ride with all the twists and turns to get to the improved offer from Heineken.

What have been your recent deals?

[1] The APB deal (see above).

[2] Advising F&N in response to the S$9 billion mandatory cash offer for F&N by TCC Assets Limited, a vehicle of Thai tycoon Charoen Srivadhanabhakdi. The offer for F&N is particularly notable as it is the largest corporate take-over in Singapore history.

What is the biggest challenge facing your market at the moment?
The opening of the Singapore legal market to international players. These are interesting times for Singapore law firms, who already face a highly competitive market even without the foreign law firms.
What has been the most significant development in your sector in recent years? (this can be legal/technical)
The latest announced revamp of the Companies Act in Singapore will see the Singapore company law regime moving from a general “one-size-fits-all” approach to a more targeted approach, depending on the nature of the company. This will hopefully encourage more entrepreneurship while at the same time, building on the corporate regulatory framework that we are well-known for.
If you hadn’t been a lawyer, what would you have been?
An accountant. I come from a family of accountants (my father and my sister are both accountants). I was always interested in the corporate world, but decided that figures were not my forté – word-smithing is!
Which country do you travel to most frequently and which country do you like the best?

For travel frequency, it is a tie between Malaysia and Australia, mainly because of family ties in both countries.

Spain is my favourite country – for the passion of its people and their food, especially in the Basque region.

What is your favourite book?
My all-time favourite is Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”. No other fantasy tale surpasses the richness of its cast of characters and the myriad sub-plots that are somehow interwoven with each other.
What is your favourite restaurant?
In a food paradise like Singapore, it would be difficult to name one!