In Conversation with Mr. Manoj K. Singh, the Founding Partner of the law firm Singh & Associates

He has successfully undertaken and represented clients in many international arbitrations including under the rules of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), and the Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC).

In a recent interview with Mr. Manoj K. Singh, the Founding Partner of the law firm Singh & Associates, we spoke to him about his experience as a lawyer and his journey of founding one of India's leading full-service law firms. He appears and argues matters before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, all High Courts in India, and various Tribunals. Mr. Singh regularly represents clients in cross-border financial and investment disputes. His signature strength is representing clients in commercial disputes and litigation. Mr. Singh has extensive experience and is a name to reckon with in domestic and international arbitrations including ad-hoc and institutional arbitrations. 

He has successfully undertaken and represented clients in many international arbitrations including under the rules of the London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA), International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), and the Singapore International Arbitration Center (SIAC). An astute litigator, Mr. Manoj K. Singh is an excellent solutions-oriented lawyer. His deferential manner and forceful arguments have helped him successfully represent high-profile individuals, large corporations, and public institutions in contentious proceedings. Mr. Manoj K. Singh also advises clients on foreign investment in India, offshore commercial borrowings, cross border taxation, project financing, anti-dumping, energy, and natural resources, etc.

Mr. Singh has more than 16 years of rich experience in helping out clients in legal issues. Mr. Manoj K Singh has received the “Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year” award by Indian Legal Awards 2019, Legal Era. He has been featured as the Recognised Practitioner – Dispute Resolution by Chambers and Partners, 2019. He is also among the Top 5 Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year by India Law Awards 2019 by Asian Legal Business, Thomson Reuters In a most recent endorsement, he was recognized as the Top Lawyer for Dispute resolution: Arbitration Practice in Legal 500 rankings. A coffee table book published by Lexis Nexis has also featured Mr. Singh as One of the 100 Legal Luminaries of India in the year 2016. He was also one of the recommended Notable 40 under 40 lawyers for dispute resolution by Indian Lawyers 250 in 2013 and Finance Monthly. Under his able guidance and leadership acumen, the Litigation Practice of Singh & Associates, represents in a mix of strategic litigations (domestic and international) in civil, criminal, commercial and arbitration matters. The Firm’s Practice Group comprises a large team that focuses on litigation and alternative dispute resolution and handles a significant number of filings in the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts across the country.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

How would you like to describe the initial years as a lawyer? Which was the conviction which inclined you to pursue a career in law?

Ans. Like many other professions where initial years are tough for the practitioners, for me too initial years as a lawyer were quite hard. However, when I joined the industry, I felt a connection, and I pursued the profession with all my passion and capacity – that is how things moved in the right direction. I will be honest and admit that my convictions increased during my practice as a lawyer and over time, I realised that not only this profession is meant for me, it is akin to a calling for me.

In 2016 Singh & Associates has been awarded the Law Firm of the Year Award at Indian Legal Awards and a 'Notable Firm' by Asia Legal Business M&A Rankings. As the founder of this firm what are the challenges that you had to face initially?

Ans. I had to face numerous challenges during the initial years of establishing Singh & Associates. Some of them included how to create the team, keep them intact, scout for opportunities, sign up clients, efficiently manage the overall work, and keep my people motivated. And those were not easy-to-overcome challenges. Till 2006-07, we were operating with very limited resources and opportunities. By 2009-10, we started granulising as a firm, and in 2011-12, we put together our structure after a well-thought strategy. By 2014-15 we were organised entirely and emerged as a full-service law firm. It was an idea to bring in together a one-stop-solution for all the legal services available for businesses & the corporate world. Since then, we have grown by leaps and bounds in terms of our infrastructure, team size, and client matters.

We have had our satellite offices in Mumbai and Bangalore since 2009-10, but they became more organised post-2015-16. 2016 saw exponential growth in our business, w.r.t. different practice areas we serve. It may seem that we have developed in the last 3-4 years, but behind this growth is 15-16 years’ worth of commitment, dedication, and hard work. Any success is always a result of a long hard work put into it, and the same has borne results for us as well.

We were incredibly happy when the Indian Legal Awards recognised us as a notable firm in 2016, and from thereon we are now recognised by all the major legal platforms and magazines with distinguished awards. Also, this year, we have been bestowed upon with "India Employer of choice 2020" by Asian Legal Business. To be able to be recognised as "one of the best places to work for" in our industry makes us only to keep working hard, and striving for excellence in our field further.

What do you wish you had known about your position/field before you started?

Ans. Somebody has said that never think in your career where you are now; you always think where you want it to end. So, where I want to end was clear to me after investing just the first five years in the legal industry. It was clear to me that I want to finally set up a full-service law firm with specialisation in arbitration and litigation as a core area for the infrastructure sector. From 2011-12 we started emerging as a firm dedicated to bringing innovative solutions to various legal challenges, and then the entire firm got organised towards the same orientation. During the years 2011-12, we were quite aggressive on the work front, which transpired the early growth that we achieved in 2015-16.

Tell us about your experience as the Assistant General Secretary of Society of Indian Law Firms.

Ans. It is an immense pleasure to be part of a renowned organisation like SILF. It has been a pleasant experience, and I am thankful to Dr Lalit Bhasin (President, SILF) for roping me into this great and esteemed organisation. Being a part of the association, it allows us to evaluate various ongoing issues, needs, and demands of the industry. Also, it gives us a perspective and a vision to foresee the business while providing stimulating views to keep ourselves running and remain informed.

How did you choose your specialisation in Litigation & ADR practice? How did you attain expertise in them?

Ans. The specialisation in commercial disputes, litigation and ADR practice, is a natural progression because I started my career as a litigator. The case matters related to this area of practice have always been my strong suit. In 2011-12, when Singh & Associates was still evolving as a firm, we penetrated the market, we made commercial disputes, litigation & ADR as our specialisation and the entire firm was oriented towards these areas. With our proficiency and subject matter expertise, we have been advising clients on their complete lifecycle of Commercial Disputes, i.e. both pre and during the dispute. We have won various awards in this category.

Simultaneously, our practice of IPR is also growing well. We have now become significantly sizeable in this domain too. We see a future expansion potential in this practice area.

What is your current industry focus during a global pandemic? How do you plan your firm's growth financially for the next few years?

Ans. During and post-COVID-19, the global practice is entirely attuned to the minimisation of risks for the industries in which we are practising. Singh & Associates specialises in commercial disputes, litigation & ADR, with special attention to the Infrastructure sector. By focusing on the various infrastructure sectors and fine-tuning our outreach and services, we have always well resonated with clients from these sectors; successfully representing high stake matters. Therefore, we intend to continue to focus our work towards risk minimisation or risk management from a legal perspective for the infrastructure sectors. We aim at serving our clients with innovative and apt solutions at this time of differential need.

However, we have also used this opportunity two-fold; first, to augment our IT ability, which we had already been enhancing for the last two years, and secondly to examine the pain which our clients are going through during this pandemic. We immediately started assessing the impact of

the pandemic as soon as the lockdown was announced and helped our clients strategise, with the backing of legal provisions. We have been entirely accurate in our analyses, and we are delighted with our precise prognosis, which has earned us the next level of respect from our clients.

One needs to remember that the primary role of a commercial or business lawyer is always about risk management. In the implementation of any project, the lawyer is required to foresee the risk and accordingly factor it into the agreement and, if need be, to enforce them through the dispute resolution processes.

The global pandemic is a massive crisis for humanity as well the economy, but I am a firm believer of the fact that every crisis creates an opportunity too. I am pleased that the able team of professionals at Singh and Associates understands and appreciates this and accordingly have re-oriented themselves to serve the client in a better fashion and advise them on numerous complex matters.

In your book, 'Infrastructure Arbitration - A Perspective' what perspective are you conveying to your readers?

Ans. 'Infrastructure Arbitration- A Perspective' is my first book in line with my core practice area, and if time permits, I will write two more books on the same subject. The present book gives a holistic view of the infrastructure sector w.r.t. arbitration. It has an array of information pertaining to the subject matter, i.e., the infrastructure industry, associated risks, legal landscape and the whole ecological system of infrastructure arbitration. I am humbled by the extremely positive feedback the book has garnered in presenting the topic to the readers. In writing the book, I have been ably assisted by my colleagues at the firm for various kinds of research required.

Being recognised as the Top 5 Dispute Resolution Lawyer of the Year by India Law Awards 2019 by Asian Legal Business, what useful advice would you like to give to an aspiring advocate in this field?

Ans. I would like to give only one advice to aspiring lawyers – you must know your subject well if you want to plan your career as a commercial or business lawyer and plan to advise the businesses in the industry. You must first give confidence to the client that you understand his/her business well enough. If you know the subject as well as your client knows (or even better), then you really know the business. Hence your advisory will be much sharper, effective, useful, and implementable.

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