“Everything I aspire to do comes down to one irreducible principle: fair play.”
Shen Yi is not just a founding partner of TSMP, but a leading figure in Singapore’s legal community, serving as President of the Law Society from 2015 to 2016. Following this tenure, Shen Yi became a Master Bencher of the Middle Temple, an honorary elected position which has been conferred on only six members from Singapore in over seven hundred years of history. He is often cited as a leading individual in Dispute Resolution in many top international legal publications for his work in dispute resolution, primarily as counsel, occasionally as arbitrator.
Shen Yi’s voracious appetite for information and his ability to develop a deep grasp of many areas of law and industry have allowed him to develop a wide practice, which includes complex corporate and trust litigation, restructuring and insolvency, financial and commercial disputes, information technology, construction and engineering disputes, and competition law. His reading list is as varied as the legal briefs he handles; he is never happier than when immersed in the eclectic world of economics, history, business, finance, engineering, science and psychology.
Outside the courtroom, Shen Yi strikes the gavel as Singapore’s most sought after unpaid charity auctioneer. After his debut at TSMP’s 10th anniversary gala charity auction, he has gone on to appear at numerous auctions, further honing his talent for persuasion by making people part with their money for a worthy cause.
“Skill and strategic thinking”
“A very good lawyer, very determined and tenacious”
“Imaginative strategy” and “excellent cross-examination”
“A formidable opponent in corporate disputes.”
“Receives praise from commentators and clients for his advocacy skills: ‘In Court, he doesn’t flinch from a tough fight, but at the same time is not abrasive”
“A shining example of the younger generation coming through – he likes legal issues, thinks hard about the cases he has, approaches them carefully and won’t rush off on something just to make an impact”
Your father, Thio Gim Hock, represented Singapore in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games in water polo. You were a national junior tennis player and an under-18s champ. What made you give up sporting glory to don the robes?
My dad said this to me when I was 16: “Shen, you don’t have the best (tennis) strokes, but you can out-think your opponent”. He taught me to be strategic and to play to my strengths. As it turns out, I’m better in the High Court than on the tennis court.
Is that competitive streak why you decided on litigation?
Not many people see litigation as a blood sport, but for me, every case is a cause to be championed in a gladiatorial arena. I love the intellectual challenge of legal debate; but more than that, I like having a part to play in shaping the law. My mother inculcated in me a sense of social justice very early on in life. I guess, at its core, that principle still drives what I do.
What’s your take on the role of the Lawyer-Statesman in the contemporary legal landscape?
The law does not exist in a silo. Our world is increasingly complex and inter-dependent: we have to battle fake news, grapple with the growing influence of intelligent technology and social media, and navigate a legal landscape that is moving from domestic to global. Lawyers have been given the privilege of understanding, interpreting and advancing laws. We have a responsibility to build a legal framework that fosters innovation and rewards success, but also leaves no one behind.
When you are not arguing in court, you are known to share your encyclopaedic knowledge of just about anything under the sun. What drives that thirst for knowledge?
I am insatiably curious and have a boundless appetite for trivia, which I am known to share at the slightest provocation. It’s a character flaw, I know.