Top corporate law honcho Lucien Wong is next Attorney-General

Top corporate law honcho Lucien Wong is next Attorney-General
Mr Lucien Wong and Mr VK Rajah. Photos: Prime Minister's Office, Supreme Court of Singapore
Succeeds V K Rajah, whose term ends on Jan 14, when he reaches retirement age of 60
Published: 4:31 PM, November 25, 2016
Updated: 10:22 PM, November 25, 2016

SINGAPORE — After more than 30 years in the private sector, where he rose to the pinnacle of corporate legal work, Mr Lucien Wong, chairman and senior partner of Allen & Gledhill, will take over from Mr V K Rajah as the Republic’s chief prosecutor and principal legal adviser.

It marks the first time an Attorney-General (AG) has had no experience on the Bench, nor acted for the State in legal matters. Mr Rajah and six of his eight predecessors — with the exception of Mr Tan Boon Teik and Professor Walter Woon — served as judges. Mr Tan and Prof Woon both had stints as Solicitor-General in the AG’s Chambers (AGC).

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) announced on Friday (Nov 25) that Mr Rajah’s term will end on Jan 14, when he reaches the retirement age of 60.

Mr Wong, 63, who has been appointed for a three-year term, will become Deputy AG as a transitional arrangement from Dec 19. When he takes over as AG on Jan 14, current Solicitor-General Lionel Yee will be appointed Deputy AG, alongside Mr Tan Siong Thye.

The post of Deputy AG was created last year to reflect the “increasing volume and complexity of legal work of the Government”. Mr Tan, 60, was appointed in February last year for a three-year term.

In Singapore, the AG wears two hats. He decides which cases to bring to court — a role in which he is guaranteed independence by the Constitution. He is also the Government’s principal legal adviser in domestic and international affairs, and his office is responsible for the drafting of written laws.

Mr Wong — who heads Allen & Gledhill, the biggest local law firm — has more than 30 years of experience in legal practice, specialising in banking, corporate and financial services work. He has sat on several law review committees that reviewed amendments to Singapore company and securities law.

He chairs the Maritime and Port Authority and the board of directors of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. He also sits on the board of trustees for the Singapore Business Federation and boards of directors for Temasek Holdings, Singapore Airlines and Singapore Press Holdings.

Commenting on the appointment, the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) described Mr Wong as “one of our top corporate lawyers and brings with him a formidable and creative legal mind”.

The society added in its statement: “We live in a fast-changing world and the legal industry as a whole will undergo significant disruption in the short and medium term. His broad transactional experience, proven management skills in helming Singapore’s largest law firm, and practical track record in cutting edge deals will bring to the office a skill set uniquely equipped to deal with the evolution of the changing legal environment in Singapore.”

Mr Sunil Sudheesan, president of the Association of Criminal Lawyers of Singapore, said Mr Wong is a distinguished personality in the corporate Bar.

“Those in the corporate Bar speak of him in high regard. He is known to be sharp, and I trust that he will bring his own brand of compassion, foresight and good sense to his new calling,” said Mr Sudheesan.

Criminal lawyer Eugene Thuraisingam said Mr Wong’s lack of Bench and criminal law experience will have little bearing “because he is a top lawyer, one of the best”.

He added: “He is a very highly regarded and respected lawyer who has been in practice for a very long time ... For criminal law, he will pick it up very fast. Generally, he has led one of Singapore’s most successful firms.”

Mr Anand Nalachandran, a criminal lawyer, added: “The office of the AG extends beyond the role of Public Prosecutor — and coming from the pinnacle of practice, we’ll benefit from his expertise and experience.”