Report on Junior ADVOC/ 5th ADVOC International Business Law Conference, August 2017

At this year’s ADVOC International Business Law Conference, a number of changes to the format to the conference were introduced, many of which were discussed at the ADVOC Asia AGM in Brisbane in late 2016.  The venue of the IBLC was changed from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, and the conference was held together with ADVOC Asia’s inaugural Junior ADVOC conference, aimed at younger members and future leaders of ADVOC firms.

The conferences were held on 14 and 15 August at the Royale Chulan Hotel in central Kuala Lumpur, which proved to be a most satisfactory venue. The conferences attracted a total of 40 delegates, with the numbers significantly boosted by strong support from Cheang & Ariff, ADVOC ‘s member firm in Malaysia.

Junior ADVOC – Monday 14 August 2017

Session 1 Law Firm Management: Characteristics of Successful Law Firms

Participants had the wonderful opportunity to learn from Dunstan De Souza, Managing Partner of Colin, Biggers & Paisley (Australia) in this thought- provoking session on the key characteristics of successful law firms. He shared with the young lawyers 3 major aspects of running a law firm – financials, culture and strategy and 4 important drivers behind “financials” – leverage, rate, utilisation and margin. He highlighted the importance of aligning oneself with the culture of the firm, a major factor that influences one’s level of satisfaction and happiness in the workplace.

Dunstan said that whilst firms may develop strategies, it is just as crucial for partners to convey the firm’s strategy to young lawyers so as to achieve the desired outcomes. These key principles were conveyed in a succinct and highly interactive manner.

Session 2 Developing and Managing Client Relationships

In this light-hearted session,  Danny Chua, Senior Partner of Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP (Singapore) engaged with the young lawyers by providing valuable insights drawing from his vast experience on the tools for developing and managing client relationships. He emphasized the need for competency and speed on the part of individual lawyers in delivering high quality work and to proactively engage with clients by understanding their business and providing commercially viable and effective solutions.

 Faced with a highly competitive environment, marketing and networking are key activities which Danny encouraged young lawyers to develop early in their career, with a strong reminder to remain vigilant and rooted in upholding morals and ethics within the legal profession. The session was again a highly interactive one, with contributions from Dunstan De Souza, Tom Darbyshire of Kott Gunning Lawyers, Perth and Erich Bachmann of Hestketh Henry, Auckland, and lively discussion from audience members generally.

On Monday evening conference delegates enjoyed the generous hospitality of Cheang and Ariff, who hosted an authentic Malaysian dinner at their beautiful offices in the Loke Mansion.

5th International Business Law Conference 2017 – Tuesday 15 August 2017

The format as well as the location of the 5th ADVOC IBLC was changed this year, with the conference consisting of a keynote speech followed by three panel discussions held over the course of a single day. Once again the Chairman of the conference was Tom Darbyshire.

The Keynote Address on “Cross-border Investments and the Role of Labuan” was given by by Datuk Ahmad Hizzad Baharuddin, Director-General of Labuan FSA / Director of Labuan IBFC. He touched on the various investment policies and free tax regime in Labuan which has been strongly promoted as an investment haven in Malaysia.

Session 1 New Companies Act 2016 and a Comparative Study With Other Jurisdiction

This was an interesting interactive dialogue session chaired by Cindy Goh, Partner of Cheang & Ariff (Malaysia) with a panel comprising four speakers - Tan Ming-li, Partner of Cheang & Ariff (Malaysia),  Chaitanya Mehta, Partner of Dhruve Liladhar & Co (India), Alamo D. Laiman, Senior Partner of Legisperitus Lawyers (Indonesia) and  Florence Goh, Partner of Joseph Tan Jude Benny LLP (Singapore).

Each speaker explained the legal requirements of the par value regime under their specific jurisdiction, with Ming-li highlighting some concerns and implications of Malaysia moving to a no par value regime. Insights were gleaned from the Singapore experience when she moved to the no par value regime effective from January 2006. The roles and fiduciary duties owed by shadow directors, sleeping directors and senior management who do not sit on the board were also discussed. Key principles were drawn from Singapore cases decided earlier this year on this topic. Diverse corporate rescue mechanisms available within each jurisdiction were also exchanged.

Session 2 Alternative Pricing Mechanism for Clients in a Changing Legal Services Landscape

In this refreshing session, Joel Barolsky, Managing Director of Barolsky Advisors (Australia) together with Dunstan De Souza inspired participants with creative ways to build the pricing muscles of a law firm, and introduced innovative strategies behind pricing mechanisms such as scoping the works and providing tiers of pricing options. Participants learned valuable techniques in pricing, such as asking the right questions when faced with requests for discounts.

Session 3 Cross-Border Investments - The Issues

The Business Conference concluded with a session chaired by Erich Bachmann  with three speakers Yoon Ming Sun, Partner of Cheang & Ariff (Malaysia), A. S. Bari, Managing Partner of A.S & Associates (Bangladesh) and Aderi Adnan, Director, Business Development, Labuan IBFC (Labuan-Malaysia) elaborating various investment schemes and tax policies with regards with foreign direction investments available within their jurisdiction. Bari also openly addressed the challenges faced by investors within his jurisdiction.

The conference was closed out with dinner at the Royale Chulan Hotel.

The quality and content of the presentations and panel discussions at the Junior ADVOC conference and the IBLC was of a very high order and the panel chairs and panellists are to be commended for the informative and engaging way in which their topics were tackled.  This year’s IBLC featured less client involvement than we have had at the conferences held in Bali, but the participation of younger representatives of the ADVOC firms, via the Junior ADVOC conference, was a success, and delegates gained a great deal from the experience.