Law Firm Looking to Reverse The Trend

Lloyds List
3 Sept 2001

In the field of maritime law Singapore is more used to attracting overseas firms than to its own firms expanding to foreign climes.

The likes of Clyde & Co, Watson Farley and Williams and Holman Fenwick and Willan have all had offices in the republic for several years.

However, one Singapore maritime law firm is trying to reverse the trend.

Two years ago, the ambitious Joseph Tan Jude Benny opened its first overseas office in Piraeus and since then it has followed up with offices in Hamburg, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

It has now embarked on an expansion drive with the global franchising of its name.

The first agreement was signed in early July with Koh & Buchan in British Columbia to establish JTJB Vancouver.

Explaining the change in strategy, managing partner Jude Benny says: “We are now firmly anchored on the franchise scheme as it allows for rapid expansion.

“We will pick certain jurisdictions where we want to have our offices, but there is a limit to that.

“What we want is a proliferation of the JTJB signature.”

The firm is in discussions with other potential partners and Dato Benny expects to see three more ventures established by the end of the year.

Geographically, the firm is looking at two more projects on the eastern seaboard of the US, at China, Japan and South Korea in Asia and three more locations in Europe.

While JTJB may appear to be moving at a rapid rate of knots he notes: “We are very cautious about who we take in as a partner.”

Of its existing overseas expansion Dato Benny says that Piraeus is the “star performer”.

He adds that its new associate office in Kuala Lumpur, Chin Hin Lam and Anthonysamy, is “really sprouting big time”.

In addition to practising law in Kuala Lumpur, a separate company, Jude Benny Consultants, has been set up to advise on areas such as marine claims, crisis management and media relations.

On this development, Dato Benny says: “We are trying to go beyond thinking strictly within the box as lawyers.”

An office in Dubai still remains on the cards and JTJB already has a licence there, but Dato Benny said that it was a case of finding the right people to run it.

Not all has gone smoothly with the Singapore firm’s drmatic expansion and the company has dissolved its partnership with the Singapore corporate and IT practice Koh & Choo.

The two Singapore law firms merged last year with an aim of exploiting IT opportunities in the shipping industry.

Asked about the failure of the partnership, Dato Benny replied: “I would say it was cultural differences.” The merger took place at the height of the boom.

He is philosphical about such failures, which he believes are just part of doing business, and says that the important thing is to carry on moving forward despite them.

TJB will continue corporate and IT work but will emphasise the expansion of its shipping business.