She is known as the “chilli padi” of the courtrooms, petite in stature but with a powerful presence. He is the sharp and shrewd former police investigation officer revered by clients for his no-nonsense style. Together, veteran lawyers Wong Kai Yun and Chia Boon Teck form the formidable duo behind Chia Wong Chambers LLC, a boutique firm known for its effectively aggressive style of litigation and dispute resolution.
A winning team
The co-managing directors share five decades of legal practice between them – and it shows. Their firm was named the Editor’s Choice in the Global Law Experts 2015 Practice Area Awards as the Boutique Family Law Firm and Boutique Criminal Law Firm of the Year in Singapore, as well as the Boutique Family Law Firm of the Year in the ACQ5 Global Awards 2015.
They were also featured in Corporate INTL Magazine 2017 and its 2018 annual Who’s Who Handbook. Their publications include the Singapore Chapter in The Global Legal Insights Litigation & Dispute Resolution 2018 and the Singapore Chapter in The Global Legal Insights Bribery & Corruption 2019.
Wong – who has a wealth of experience in acrimonious cross-border high net worth divorces, with clients spanning Asia, Europe and the United States – has made it to the IFC (International Financial Centre) Power Women Top 200 list of the most powerful women in government, private wealth, private client advisory and philanthropy across the world, from its inauguration in 2013 to 2018. She was also one of a select few Singaporean lawyers included in the Citywealth Leaders List, and was named in the Doyles Guide for Family & Divorce Lawyers from 2015 to 2019.
Yet beyond trade accolades, Chia and Wong win their clients over with their expertise and effectiveness. “Our litigation style is developed over the years through our experience and temperament. I am not one who beats around the bush – I get to the point and don’t waste time,” says Chia, who has handled various high-profile civil, commercial and criminal litigation cases.
Chia does not believe in painting a rose garden for his clients if there isn’t one, or dragging out a case with lengthy negotiations; he presents the realities for his clients as it is. “I would want a lawyer to be honest with me: If I have a good case, then I would want him to be good enough to win it. If I don’t have a good case, then I want him to do damage control, cut my losses, and move on.”
He strategises for the best possible outcome and goes for the kill. “Most people would ask for the sky and then spend a lot of time getting to the bottom line. I start from close to the bottom line and commence litigation if my demands are not met. I don’t have patience for fish markets.”
Though a boutique firm, Chia Wong Chambers has associate offices in Bangkok, Beijing, Dubai, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and New Delhi. The firm also manages cross-border disputes and projects involving foreign entities and individuals. As the world becomes smaller and industries more intertwined, Chia and Wong are also expanding their fields of knowledge to serve their clients better.
“The fact that the world is changing means you cannot practise law in isolation,” observes Wong. “Today, you see accounting firms with legal arms, or outfits offering private wealth structuring or estate planning together with litigation. Having cross-disciplinary knowledge is very important if you want to excel – and serve your clients well.”
From familiarising herself with the legal systems of other countries to be able to advocate new solutions, knowing the who’s who in her field globally so that she is well-placed to size them up as opponents, to acquiring knowledge on medical conditions to understand clients’ needs, and even just navigating different cultural perceptions to understand a client’s perspective, Wong takes it all in – and empowers herself with it, for the benefit of her clients.
The law firm has an eye on expansion, having just changed its corporate identity from Chia Wong LLP to Chia Wong Chambers LLC. “Corporations have growth beyond the individuals. Thus we decided to corporatise to facilitate growth and groom successors – we have a team of promising young lawyers who we hope can uphold our motto of taking the bull by the horns,” shares Chia. “We have a certain ethos and style of practice – and through corporatisation we can pass it on.”
Both Chia and Wong are tireless in their pursuit of excellence, and at the risk of sounding like a cliche, it is their clients that keep them going. “In almost every other case, I can see how I actually changed somebody’s life – these are the cases that make practising law worthwhile,” shares Chia.
“I like to think that I made a difference to my clients’ lives when they cross my path,” says Wong. “And hopefully, they walk away from the case thinking, ‘She made my life better’.”
— BROUGHT TO YOU BY CHIA WONG CHAMBERS LLC —