Wednesday, July 8, 2020 - 12:08

STEFANIE YUEN THIO ON HER “SLEEPLESS NIGHTS”

And how LawNet’s latest initiative might have kept them at bay.

SYT

It’s hard to imagine a Stefanie Yuen Thio who’s unsure of herself or her work. After all, confidence is almost always a trait associated with the Joint Managing Partner of TSMP Law. But that wasn’t always the case, she says. There was a time when she would worry about stray punctuation marks and incorrect phrases messing up the contracts she drafted for clients. And although more than two decades have passed, Ms Yuen Thio still vividly remembers the fear of getting something wrong. “There were many sleepless nights filled with worry,” she recalls.

So when Justice Chua Lee Ming and LawNet approached her to contribute to a precedent bank for the Singapore legal industry, she immediately recognised its value. “If I had had such easy access to precedents as a young lawyer, it would have made the world of difference to me. Far fewer sleepless nights,” she quips. “I would have been able to cut through a lot of the research I had to do to understand the law behind each of these clauses. It would have enhanced speed and accuracy.”

This new precedent bank, launched on 7 July 2020, gives LawNet subscribers access to more than 65 precedents from leading law firms—among them TSMP Law, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Drew & Napier and Pinsent Masons—at no extra cost.

Precedents offered cover a wide range of topics, from employment law to mergers and acquisitions. This breadth is arguably the project’s most valuable offering, says Ms Yuen Thio. “A lot of young lawyers these days are very specialised, especially when they join large firms and work in sector silos. But on occasion, a transaction may need them to have specific knowledge in a different area. For example, you might need to review the employment contract of the startup's founder as part of a VC deal. The precedent bank will be very useful for lawyers to understand the relevant bits of employment law in the context of the contract.”

But she warns that lawyers should be discerning, even when using precedents. “I tell my corporate lawyers to use the precedent as a tool, not as a final product. Think about what your client needs; ultimately, that should be what drives the contract that you eventually draft.”

She adds that the drafting notes accompanying the precedents will help with this. “The idea is that each clause of any significance in the contract will have some explanatory notes to describe what the law is and to explain when to use the clause. Often junior lawyers are afraid to amend the precedents because they don't know the legal significance of a particular clause. The notes will help to demystify the contract.”

To Ms Yuen Thio, the precedent bank marks an important step forward for the legal industry. “When I first started to practise, a large firm which I shall not name, would make its clients promise not to send the precedents out in Word format because they wanted to protect their intellectual property rights in the document. How times have changed. This project levels the playing field: small firms, medium firms and large firms alike can learn from one another. And that's really wonderful. It will make Singapore a more competitive legal market.”

Commercial Precedents are now available on LawNet at no extra cost to existing subscribers. Ms Stefanie Yuen Thio moderates a panel discussion on regulatory issues at the upcoming TechLaw.Fest 2020. Complimentary registrations for the five-day affair are available now.

A LIFE IN THE LAW

Ms Stefanie Yuen Thio
Called to the Bar: 1994

Stefanie is an inveterate people person, and no one, neither the cleaner in the same lift nor the CEO behind her in the coffee queue, is spared her conversation. Her interest in people has not only built her a formidable network of contacts, but also underpins her strategic abilities in boardroom battles.

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