09 Apr 2021

'Nothing changes' - Toby Landau QC on going solo in London and Singapore's rising status for disputes

Top arbitration specialist sets out his plans after severing his ties with Essex Court Chambers

Portrait of Toby Landau

Toby Landau

There is an increasing demand in Singapore for disputes boutiques and independent advocates who are helping to cement the city state’s status as a global disputes hub, according to top arbitration QC Toby Landau.

Outlining his plans following his decision to sever his links with London’s Essex Court Chambers after it appeared on China’s UK sanctions list, Landau has underlined the continuity of his practice, both in London and Singapore, as well as his confidence in the Singapore disputes market.

In London, Landau has resigned as a member of Essex Court Chambers and Arbitrators at 24 Lincoln’s Inn Fields while in Singapore he and five fellow advocates have collectively vacated the affiliated Essex Court Chambers Duxton to launch Duxton Hill Chambers (Singapore Group Practice).

He said he saw continuing demand for the chambers model Duxton Hill Chambers propounds, adding: “There is a distinct move towards professional models other than large law firms, and in particular smaller operations that are more focused on advocacy.”  

Noting that a number of Senior Counsel in Singapore have set up boutiques labelled as ‘chambers’, he said the new practice “remains the only traditional ‘chambers’ model in Singapore, in the sense of being a collection of self-employed and independent individuals, all of whom are Singapore qualified”.

There was, said Landau, “an increasing demand for specialist advocates in Singapore, both for work within the country and before foreign courts and tribunals involving Singapore-related matters”.

Offering advocates instructed on a case-by-case basis, he said, “provides great advantages for existing law firms, both within Singapore and abroad. And it enhances Singapore’s standing as an international dispute resolution hub.”

Landau’s comments confirm the increasing self-confidence felt by Singaporean advocates to offer their own models of advocacy services, which are derived from the UK referral Bar, but have a distinct Asian identity, helping them to compete with UK, Australian, and New Zealand advocates based at dispute resolution hub Maxwell Chambers.

For regional disputes, the members of Duxton Hill Chambers offer a Singaporean alternative to Hong Kong’s tightly-knit commercial bar. They benefit from a fused profession, a strong regulatory culture and fewer concerns over the rule of law in the wake of last year’s imposition on the Special Administrative Region of the controversial national security law.

Landau confirmed that he would be clerked by former Essex Court senior clerk, David Grief, at Duxton Hill Chambers and would maintain his rights of audience before the Singapore courts, including the International Commercial Court.

He added: “I will maintain the same practice as counsel before the English courts, foreign courts and in arbitration, alongside my work as arbitrator.  I will continue to work with juniors at the London Bar as before. Aside from no longer being a member of Essex Court Chambers, nothing changes. I now practise in London as a sole practitioner for all purposes.”