35 Years of Leadership: Swee Kee Ng, Shearn Delamore & Co., former WLG President

Swee Kee Ng
Partner at Shearn Delamore & Co. and former WLG President

How did you first get involved with WLG, and what led you to take on a leadership position?

It was 2001 when our then managing partner, Cecil Abraham, who was then also the main contact partner and a past WLG board member, asked if I was interested in being a main contact. He was in the process of handing over the job to younger partners. I agreed, attended my first meeting in Amsterdam in 2001 and thereafter through interaction with WLG leaders and members was proposed and elected, initially as a regional director and thereafter as president. I agreed to be a candidate for both positions because I saw the immense value of the WLG network and wanted to be part of the process in its further development in a changing as a corporate body in a fast changing legal associations environment. The WLG has to remain relevant for its members. My involvement in the 2002 meeting in Kuala Lumpur which Shearn Delamore hosted was a great learning experience which led me to consistent yearly involvement in the annual meetings of the WLG for the next 2 decades.

What is your advice to lawyers who want to get more involved with or take on a leadership position within the WLG network?

They can attend the annual regional meetings as a start. These are smaller meetings that would enable a focused and a “lighter” introduction to direct face-to-face engagement with other WLG lawyers, something that may not come naturally to younger lawyers.

Since 2001, the WLG engagement platforms have grown by leaps and bounds. At present, younger lawyers can also easily get to know WLG and other lawyers through virtual programming and by joining the various practice groups and committees. The virtual practice group and committee meetings are “cost” free and serve as a foundation for in-person meeting engagement.

In all of the above, each lawyer’s skills and leadership attributes will develop to a better level, and in time, be manifest and naturally recognized by their peers. An important part of the equation are the personal relationships built. They would eventually pave the way to leadership positions within WLG. Leadership positions would include being chair or co-chairs of practice groups, officers of the business development committee and the authoring of publications and books on topics such as cross border M&A, competition law and arbitration.

While serving on the Board, what did you learn about WLG and its value to members?

While serving on the Board as the Asia regional director and subsequently as president, the subject matters discussed at the monthly board meetings, brought home the multi faceted ways and benefits WLG can bring to its members and lawyers. These meetings also touched on the complexities of law association memberships, an understanding of which would be helpful to a member firm’s internal management of its own international memberships and participation in international business development.

I also learnt early that close personal contact and direct engagement with lawyers from other member firms will:
a. build the firm’s international network so essential for inbound and outbound work of any law firm and to be able to do so efficiently.
b. build an international network perspective for a national firm and how to manage issues such as service standards and conflicts.

Through World Law Group, we have also learned how to better manage our own firm's issues more effectively by learning from other firms.

How did your leadership roles in WLG help build your global network, impact your practice, and benefit your firm?

My leadership roles augmented and expanded our firm’s network of close trusted friends whom we can work with to bring the best cross border multi-jurisdictional legal service to our clients.

Its impact on my practice is enormous in the sense that I can instantly access lawyers I personally know in over 60 countries, such access being grounded on trust and the knowledge that these lawyers we work with are reliable and top lawyers in their own jurisdiction. Added to this is the personal relationship obligation of the contacts to ensure that we receive good transaction management for our clients. Not just a directory!

The close relationships I have built over two decades are close and very strong. It benefits our firm as the excellent service provided by the WLG members benefit our clients.

How has WLG grown over the past 35 years?

The world has changed since WLG was formed. The development of WLG's Practice & Industry Groups has been important. Recently, I had to advise a Malaysian company and I used one of the guidebooks written by a WLG group to quickly reference information for nine countries. Additionally, the network's programming has become more relevant. It is important to note that WLG's size has remained manageable so close-knit relationships are easy to build leading to the ability to build trust and confidence in sending our clients to fellow WLG member firms.