Rajah & Tann is the largest firm in Singapore, with 9 offices and over 500 lawyers in South East Asia, making it the largest Asian headquartered firm in South East Asia.

We had the chance to speak with Melisa Uremovic from the firm and learn more about what it takes to achieve such an enviable position in such an instrumental region.

Our focus is on being the first choice for companies seeking representation in South East Asia. In Bangkok we have almost 50 lawyers, operating in a full service capacity. In Thailand we have a very active Thai Customs Department that routinely conducts post-audits and raids of importers, looking at valuation, tariff classification and licensing issues.  In fact, I would say that there has been a greater emphasis on licensing issues in recent years as many imports largely move or have already moved to a 0% tariff regime.  Allegations of duty evasion or importation without a license carry heavy penalties, with the Customs Act specifying a penalty of four times the duty paid value of goods, up to 10 years’ imprisonment, and also applying a 15-year limitation period.  

Moving goods internationally requires an understanding of both customs and trade laws, as well as general regulatory requirements.  It is extremely important to obtain advice on laws relevant to the importation of your specific products before your commence importation or if you acquire a business which imports products.  For example, packaging and labelling provisions, special import permits and other licensing requirements.  Each of our South East Asian offices has expertise in this area and we frequently work together on South East Asia wide projects.  We can offer clients a highly integrated service provided by practitioners with many years’ experience in this area.

We often hear that the business has been following this practice for a number of years and thought it was OK,  but that defence does not get you very far in this market.  Brokers can be very helpful but they may also face difficulty navigating the complex regime of licensing which certain products require – to name just a few – medical devices, hazardous substances, excisable products etc. 

We have, amongst our team in Thailand, a former judge, a Japanese speaking Thai lawyer, and a UK- qualified- lawyer with more than 20 years’ experience in Thailand.  We work as one team across the offices, to ensure that our clients receive a seamless service and in-depth expertise.  In particular, we are able to provide advice from the 9 different jurisdictions in which we work which has been particularly popular and effective, as it reduces the need for the client to contact a different lawyer as jurisdictions change.

One of the most important factors for lawyers is to feel that they are part of a firm which offers career progression and values their work.   In many international firms, lawyers experience difficulty in being promoted which leads to a high turnover rate.  Rajah & Tann is conscious of this and encourages a sense of ownership by senior lawyers which provides opportunities for senior lawyers to develop their practice and be rewarded for their efforts in terms of remuneration and promotion. 

We will continue to grow and truly have a long-term view to maintain our position as “Lawyers who know Asia”. 

Melisa Uremovic

973 President Tower,

 12th Floor   Units 12A – 12F   Ploenchit Road,

 Lumpini   Pathumwan   Bangkok 10330   Thailand

Telephone: D +66 2656 1991