Lee Suet Fern
Founder of Stamford Law Corporation
Lee Suet Fern started Stamford Law Corporation in 2000 and soon demonstrated just how effective a young and nimble firm can be in taking on large established ones. In less than a decade and a half, Stamford Law carved a niche for itself as a leading firm initially in the high-pressure, high-stakes mergers and acquisitions (M&A) business. Then it became a full service corporate law firm with market leading teams in corporate law, corporate finance, capital markets, and arbitration and litigation, areas often dominated by old established firms.
Suet Fern, senior director of Stamford Law, graduated with a double first in law from Cambridge University in 1980 and qualified as a Barrister-at-Law at Gray’s Inn London in 1981, having won various academic prizes at university and at the London Bar examinations. She was admitted to the Singapore Bar in 1982 winning the Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par Memorial Prize for top candidates at the Singapore Bar examinations and the Justice Tan Ah Tah Prize for Professional Ethics. She then worked in London and in Singapore before deciding to start Stamford Law.
She also decided that her young firm would take a different approach from the established partnerships. The focus has been on quality and thought leadership rather than on volume work. And to ensure vibrancy and creativity, it hires dynamic lawyers who have fresh ideas and a desire to make their mark on the profession. In an interview in 2012, Suet Fern said: “We see our peers as strong institutions and volume leaders in the legal services market, but it’s not our ambition to be the biggest. We want to hit above our weight and have influence far beyond our size.”
Accolades are aplenty for both the firm and the founder. Stamford Law’s M&A practice has consistently been recognised by leading legal publications, most recently being ranked as the number two Singapore law firm on Mergermarket’s South East Asia league tables by value.
Suet Fern came out tops in the Mergers and Acquisitions and Private Equity category of the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards 2013, the only second time winner. She has been involved in many of Singapore’s most significant corporate transactions and has been named a leading practitioner in numerous professional publications, including Chambers Global Guide to the World’s leading Lawyers and Asia Law Leading Lawyers. She has also received the Asian Legal Business Life Time Achievement Award.
Suet Fern was President of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (an international association for business lawyers) and is a director of the World Justice Project (a not-for-profit organization focused on the promotion of the rule of law). She is Chairman of the Asian Civilisations Museum and a member of the National Heritage Board, a member of the Senate of the Singapore Academy of Law and of the Advisory Board to the Law School at Singapore Management University, a trustee for Nanyang Technological University, and a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Directors. She also serves on the boards of Fortune 100 public listed companies including insurance giant AXA and global healthcare company Sanofi.
The mother of three sons has some tough advice on how to achieve and balance a career and the needs of a family. She once said: “There comes a point after you mentally shut out the clutter when there is nothing else but you and your work. With enough practice and willpower, you can train yourself to be in control of your brain and excel at whatever you do.”
"With enough practice and willpower, you can train yourself to be in control of your brain and excel at whatever you do."