LIM SENG SIEW ON WHY HE’S A ONE FIRM KIND OF GUY
He reflects on more than 30 years in the law—nearly all of which have been at OTP Law.
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
I’m talking to Mr Lim Seng Siew during TechLaw.Fest week, which peeks into the future of the law of tech and the tech of law. But Seng Siew, who has been in practice for more than 30 years, offers me a different view: one of the colourful past.
“I started in Braddell Brothers, which still exists, but in a different form today. The law office in those days was very noisy…you had Telexes that clicked all day long, Daisy wheel printers, whose clacking sounds were quite ridiculous.”
But amid the noise and chaos, were signs of a quiet revolution, even among old-timers like Mr Harry Lee Wee, Seng Siew’s first boss. “Harry was probably more of a techie than people realised,” recalls Seng Siew. “Shortly after I joined, Braddell Brothers got its first personal computer—one for the entire firm and it was in his office. I think he was a secret techie … anything to get work done more efficiently, he was game for.”
Besides bulky computers, the period was also marked by the legal profession’s few specialists. Generalists was the name of the game, he adds. “Conveyancing was probably the only specialist discipline at that time—and a big moneymaker at that, effectively subsidising all other practice areas.”
That was still the case in the early 1990s, when he joined Ms Susan Tay and Mr Ong Ying Ping at Ong Tay & Partners, the predecessor of OTP Law, where he remains to this day, along with Susan. When asked about this longevity, he says, “Our ability to understand each other as a team means we know our strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes our different strengths complement one another and address some of our individual weaknesses. I think that's also why we managed to stay together all these years.”
THE SHIFT TO SPECIALISE
Together, Susan and Seng Siew have seen a massive shift towards specialisation, so much so that OTP Law, like many other firms, now has distinct practice areas, among them tech, corporate, family and matrimonial law. “I think it would be hard for a small firm today to thrive without some degree of specialising,” says Seng Siew.
Perhaps it’s this belief that inspired him to apply for SAL’s latest accreditation scheme, which recognises Senior Accredited Specialists in Data and the Digital Economy. Defining the parameters of the specialisation is tricky, but Seng Siew has a go: “It’s fascinating because it’s not a practice area in the traditional sense. Here, we’re talking about an economic area seen through a business lens. The accreditation will look at dispute resolution skills, contracting knowledge and your ability to apply laws to help clients … so you need to know about the law and be innovative in how you apply it.”
He continues, “When you talk about an area like the digital economy, you’ll find clients who are generally less familiar with the lawyers involved in it. So having that stamp or a label to say you're accredited in this particular area will be useful and help them identify the lawyer they want to engage.”
Despite his hectic schedule, Seng Siew throws himself into various professional commitments, including stints on multiple committees of both SAL and the Law Society. Those familiar with LawNet would know that Seng Siew had headed the team at LawNet for a few years before returning to practice. Most recently, he assumed a new role as the Chair of SAL’s Board of Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public, taking the baton from another legal giant, Mr Giam Chin Toon SC.
“The practice of law, although challenging, is also very fulfilling with long lasting relationships built up with fellow lawyers. There is a term we lawyers use when describing the camaraderie, that we are brothers and sisters in the law. As members of this esteemed family, it is only right that I should give back to the profession.”
Lawyers who wish to be accredited as a Senior Accredited Specialist in Data and the Digital Economy may now apply. Applications are now open and close on 31 August 2022. Interested applicants should refer to the Information Guide prior to completing the application form. For queries, please contact [email protected]. Registrations for the corresponding coursework are also open here.