“Success is not the number of cases you win, but the respect you earn.”
Kelvin Koh
LL.B. (HONS) (NUS)
PARTNER
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“不戰而屈人之兵,善之善者也”
(“The supreme art of war is to win without fighting”)

An ardent admirer of ancient Chinese war literature, Kelvin often turns to Sun Tzu’s Art of War for guidance in matters of the courtroom. For Kelvin, the pen has indeed proven mightier than the sword, one he wields successfully at the service of his clients in commercial litigation, regulatory disputes and international arbitration.

Kelvin is also a firm believer that problems are best resolved with a keen eye on managing the intricacies of relationship dynamics, particularly in his specialist practice in both contentious and non-contentious trust and legacy matters.

Kelvin’s deeply rooted Chinese values also translates into a scholarly appreciation for education and nurturing the next generation of tactical litigators, and has spent numerous years teaching Equity and Trust to lawyers-in-the-making in the National University of Singapore.

“Kelvin is a rising star lawyer with amazing English and Chinese proficiency to provide bilingual legal service.”

— Asialaw Profiles

What sparked your love for the Chinese language and culture?

I watched Journey to the West as a young impressionable child. Seeing a talking monkey with all the magical abilities sparked my imagination. Of course this was all in Chinese. Daydreaming in Chinese as a kid does wonders to your passion for the language.

As I grew older, I found that complex thoughts and emotions are often more accurately expressed in Chinese, such as “万事俱备,只欠东风”, which means “all is ready, except the one key element”. The phrase originated from a passage from Romance of Three Kingdom, in the battle of the red cliff. There are usually cultural or historical elements behind every idiom that give even the simplest of phrases deep profound meanings.

You’ve developed an impressive Chinese clientele. How do their needs differ from those of local clients?

Chinese clients are very diverse. What an SOE client needs may vary starkly from a 海归 client (essentially Western-educated Chinese). Such clients are familiar with western styles of engagement, and are not too different from local clients. Cultural and situational sensitivity is important to traditional Chinese clients. The ability to pick up subtleties and understand their unspoken interests is essential to earning the trust of Chinese clients, and becoming a friend rather than just a lawyer to them.

And how have you adapted to serve these clients better?

Familiarising myself with Chinese technical terms and legal jargon. Acquiring a better understanding of the political and business environment in China. Being flexible to manage the needs and expectations of clients. Watching Chinese movies and drama serials! The shows often put into perspectives many of the concerns of the Chinese and how they read between the lines. It is entertaining and educational at the same time.

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