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Christopher Leong, Managing Partner of Chooi & Company
Christopher Leong, Managing Partner of Chooi & Company

Chooi & Company, a mid-sized commercial law firm, which was established in Malaysia five decades ago, is still strongly committed to maintaining the traditional values of integrity, independence, and professionalism in delivering their services to its clients from all over the world. Inside Investor caught up with the Managing Partner, Christopher Leong for an exclusive interview.

Q: Could you recap on the firm’s development in the country?

A: The firm was founded by Mr Chooi Mun Sou in December 1962. He was a sole general practitioner then. In the 1970s, the firm was mainly working for clients in the banking industry – loan documentations, advisory of loans, litigation and conveyancing. Then, in the 1980s, the firm started to do more corporate work and Mr Chooi acted for a Malaysian company in the takeover of Dunlop plc in England. By then, the firm has grown to its current size and we were one of the top five law firms in Kuala Lumpur. If you look our firm, we actually mirrored the way Malaysia’s development. During the 1990s, our litigation department began to expand, and today, we are ranked well for litigation. Most of our works (about 50 per cent) come from litigation. We currently have about 11 partners and 16 lawyers in the firm. We are looking forward into Islamic finance and are planning for a merger later this year. This is to expand our practice areas. There are also other fields in which we are very much interested.

Q: What are the core principles that Chooi & Company has followed since its founding years?

A: We have emphasized heavily on independence as professionals, on integrity and providing quality. We subscribe to Justice Bao’s principles. Justice Bao was a renowned official who served during the reign of Emperor Renzong of the Northern Song Dynasty in ancient China. He was renowned for his filial piety, stern demeanour and intolerance of injustice and corruption. In fact, in the early 1980s, Mr Chooi was appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia and in 1983 to serve on a committee to investigate the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Ltd (BMF) case in Hong Kong, which involved a RM2 billion loan scandal caused by the collapse of the Carrian group of companies headed by George Tan. He was responsible for carrying out the investigation and drafting the official report. Subsequently, he was named the 1983 ‘Man of the Year’. Since then, we have received a lot of foreign work, because international clients wanted an independent legal representation. This is how we ended up having so many foreign clients.

Q: Could you give a profile of your clients, in general?

A: We have slightly more than 50 per cent foreign clients, and they are mostly from the corporate banking sector. We have clients from merchant banking, big multinational corporations, investment banks, foreign law firms, foreign insurance companies, foreign banks, telecom companies, and companies in the oil and gas industry. We represent companies like JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Telekom in Malaysia.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other law firms in Malaysia? How would you assess your firm’s position among the local competition in the legal industry?

A: I think we are known to be a boutique firm. In the 1980s, we were the biggest in terms of size, but today, we are no longer in this position. However, we are still compatible with the big firms in Malaysia for the work we do. Primarily, we are known for independence and integrity, and that is the reason; I think we still have an edge in the market. The other thing we are known for is that we have a public interest and criminal department here. If you look at most of the commercial law firms here, they do not have this. We are the only commercial law firm of our size, which has a fully-fledged public interest and criminal litigation department. For example, last year, I spent about four and a half months in the royal commission on the enquiry about the death of Teoh Beng Hock. We also do habeas corpus cases for people detained under the Internal Security Act. I think that’s how we maintain the edge, and that reinforces the image of our independence.

Q: What are the services you offer to foreign investors who would like to invest in Malaysia?

A:  If there are clients who come in and want to invest or start up a business, the services we provide are right from the start. If they need to incorporate a company, we can help them to do that and to make the necessary applications for business licenses as well as approvals from the regulatory bodies. For example, if business or investment here involves taking a stake in a listed company, we would advise them on the regulatory requirements and make the applications for them. We can also advise them on structure and options – to set up a joint venture, do a direct investment, or merger and acquisition. Some companies even come in completely cold; we also can advise them on their human resource requirements especially in obtaining work permits.

Q: In your view, how does the economic growth in Malaysia benefit the legal profession?

A: I think the lawyers now have to look regionally. They can no longer afford to just focus their practices on the Malaysian economy. This is partly because many Malaysian businesses are also going regional for expansion or relocation. So, with that happening, lawyers will have to develop their abilities to go regional too. In fact, we are hoping that the Malaysian government will pass the Legal Profession Act to liberalise the legal profession sector by end of this year.

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Christopher Leong, Managing Partner of Chooi & Company

Chooi & Company, a mid-sized commercial law firm, which was established in Malaysia five decades ago, is still strongly committed to maintaining the traditional values of integrity, independence, and professionalism in delivering their services to its clients from all over the world. Inside Investor caught up with the Managing Partner, Christopher Leong for an exclusive interview.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Christopher Leong, Managing Partner of Chooi & Company
Christopher Leong, Managing Partner of Chooi & Company

Chooi & Company, a mid-sized commercial law firm, which was established in Malaysia five decades ago, is still strongly committed to maintaining the traditional values of integrity, independence, and professionalism in delivering their services to its clients from all over the world. Inside Investor caught up with the Managing Partner, Christopher Leong for an exclusive interview.

Q: Could you recap on the firm’s development in the country?

A: The firm was founded by Mr Chooi Mun Sou in December 1962. He was a sole general practitioner then. In the 1970s, the firm was mainly working for clients in the banking industry – loan documentations, advisory of loans, litigation and conveyancing. Then, in the 1980s, the firm started to do more corporate work and Mr Chooi acted for a Malaysian company in the takeover of Dunlop plc in England. By then, the firm has grown to its current size and we were one of the top five law firms in Kuala Lumpur. If you look our firm, we actually mirrored the way Malaysia’s development. During the 1990s, our litigation department began to expand, and today, we are ranked well for litigation. Most of our works (about 50 per cent) come from litigation. We currently have about 11 partners and 16 lawyers in the firm. We are looking forward into Islamic finance and are planning for a merger later this year. This is to expand our practice areas. There are also other fields in which we are very much interested.

Q: What are the core principles that Chooi & Company has followed since its founding years?

A: We have emphasized heavily on independence as professionals, on integrity and providing quality. We subscribe to Justice Bao’s principles. Justice Bao was a renowned official who served during the reign of Emperor Renzong of the Northern Song Dynasty in ancient China. He was renowned for his filial piety, stern demeanour and intolerance of injustice and corruption. In fact, in the early 1980s, Mr Chooi was appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia and in 1983 to serve on a committee to investigate the Bumiputra Malaysia Finance Ltd (BMF) case in Hong Kong, which involved a RM2 billion loan scandal caused by the collapse of the Carrian group of companies headed by George Tan. He was responsible for carrying out the investigation and drafting the official report. Subsequently, he was named the 1983 ‘Man of the Year’. Since then, we have received a lot of foreign work, because international clients wanted an independent legal representation. This is how we ended up having so many foreign clients.

Q: Could you give a profile of your clients, in general?

A: We have slightly more than 50 per cent foreign clients, and they are mostly from the corporate banking sector. We have clients from merchant banking, big multinational corporations, investment banks, foreign law firms, foreign insurance companies, foreign banks, telecom companies, and companies in the oil and gas industry. We represent companies like JP Morgan, Lehman Brothers and Deutsche Telekom in Malaysia.

Q: How do you differentiate yourself from other law firms in Malaysia? How would you assess your firm’s position among the local competition in the legal industry?

A: I think we are known to be a boutique firm. In the 1980s, we were the biggest in terms of size, but today, we are no longer in this position. However, we are still compatible with the big firms in Malaysia for the work we do. Primarily, we are known for independence and integrity, and that is the reason; I think we still have an edge in the market. The other thing we are known for is that we have a public interest and criminal department here. If you look at most of the commercial law firms here, they do not have this. We are the only commercial law firm of our size, which has a fully-fledged public interest and criminal litigation department. For example, last year, I spent about four and a half months in the royal commission on the enquiry about the death of Teoh Beng Hock. We also do habeas corpus cases for people detained under the Internal Security Act. I think that’s how we maintain the edge, and that reinforces the image of our independence.

Q: What are the services you offer to foreign investors who would like to invest in Malaysia?

A:  If there are clients who come in and want to invest or start up a business, the services we provide are right from the start. If they need to incorporate a company, we can help them to do that and to make the necessary applications for business licenses as well as approvals from the regulatory bodies. For example, if business or investment here involves taking a stake in a listed company, we would advise them on the regulatory requirements and make the applications for them. We can also advise them on structure and options – to set up a joint venture, do a direct investment, or merger and acquisition. Some companies even come in completely cold; we also can advise them on their human resource requirements especially in obtaining work permits.

Q: In your view, how does the economic growth in Malaysia benefit the legal profession?

A: I think the lawyers now have to look regionally. They can no longer afford to just focus their practices on the Malaysian economy. This is partly because many Malaysian businesses are also going regional for expansion or relocation. So, with that happening, lawyers will have to develop their abilities to go regional too. In fact, we are hoping that the Malaysian government will pass the Legal Profession Act to liberalise the legal profession sector by end of this year.

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