Partner, Withers KhattarWong* | Singapore
Secretary Iris CHIANG
Withers KhattarWong LLP is a Singapore law practice, affiliated with Withers LLP.
Shaun is a partner in the litigation and arbitration team.Shaun Leong, FCIArb, is an international arbitration specialist with more than a decade of experience in complex cross border commercial disputes across a myriad of sectors including technology, blockchain, cryptoassets, infrastructure and energy sectors. He focuses on developing and employing successful strategies to achieve clients' objectives in cross jurisdictional disputes. Awards and accolades include:
- International Arbitration Lawyer of the Year nominee (Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific Awards 2022)
- Shortlisted as Leading Practitioner in Blockchain (Who's Who Legal 2022)
- Shortlisted for Client Choice Awards 2022 in Blockchain
- "Future Star" in International Arbitration (Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 2022)
- A "key lawyer" and "international arbitration specialist" (Legal 500 Asia-Pacific 2022)
- “Shaun Leong is one of the brightest, if not the brightest star of his generation. A standout arbitration practitioner with a strategic mind, he is adept at finding practical solutions to complex cross-border issues. He is very dedicated to clients' needs.” (Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 2022)
- “Shaun Leong is extremely astute, commercial and has the excellent ability to develop and implement a customised strategy to effectively resolve complex cross border issues. As a top rate, results-oriented counsel, Shaun is a standout star among peers.” (Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 2022)
- “Shaun Leong is a masterclass in commercial litigation and international arbitration. He is able to break down the issues and focus on the key points that we need to establish our case." (Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific 2022)
- Shaun recently became the first lawyer in the world to successfully obtain a worldwide proprietary injunction to freeze a non-fungible token on the blockchain in a commercial dispute.
- Shaun successfully represented a prominent cryptocurrency exchange in an SIAC international arbitration in a dispute arising from a joint investment where incentive milestone payments were paid in a digital token. The dispute involves complex considerations around the proper valuation of and enforcement against cryptocurrencies.
- Shaun successfully represented a leading cryptocurrency exchange in a multi-million dollar complex cross border dispute involving novel issues and considerations around legal liability arising from automated functions and computer glitches and unprecedented developments around creation of new blockchains and protocols.
- Shaun advised a cryptocurrency exchange on cross border strategies in an international arbitration over cryptocurrency-based structured financial products.
- Shaun often works with clients to design disputes prevention and disputes mitigation processes prior to the occurrence of any disputes.
- Shaun regularly helps clients develop and deploy effective cross border strategies when disputes arise relating to cryptocurrencies and/or NFTs, representing clients in international arbitrations including enforcement work across a myriad of jurisdictions, and advising clients on investments in digitals assets.
Upon graduating with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Shaun served in a judicial capacity as a Magistrate and Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court for five years, where he published several notable written judgments on international arbitration law. The decisions include Firstlink Investments v GT Payment on the applicable law governing an arbitration agreement as endorsed by the English Court of Appeal, and Titan Unity, endorsed by the Singapore Court of Appeal, on the threshold to determine the existence of a valid arbitration agreement. He was the Head of the Court of Appeal Section of the Supreme Court Registry, and was involved in the establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) as Secretariat of the SICC committee.
Shaun is a panel arbitrator with the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), and with premier international arbitration centres across Asia-Pacific including China and India:
- Alongside luminaries in international arbitration practice, Shaun is appointed on the Panel of Arbitrators with the Center for International Investment and Commercial Arbitration, a key institution to resolve energy, infrastructure, and Belt & Road disputes.
- Shaun is the first Singaporean to be appointed on the panel of Arbitrators with the Tashkent International Arbitration Centre (TIAC). Sitting in a strategic pivot of the ancient Silk Road as well as the modern Digital Silk Road, the TIAC is a prime centre to resolve cross border Belt & Road disputes, and is also proud to promote the resolution of technology disputes, where the lex arbitri has found disputes involving issues of blockchain, cryptocurrency, and artificial intelligence to be arbitrable.
- He is appointed an Arbitrator (仲裁人) on the Panel of BeiHai Asia International Arbitration Centre (北海亚洲国际仲裁中心), with a focus on ASEAN Belt & Road Disputes. The Centre is the first ever International Arbitration Centre in Singapore established by a Chinese commission.
- Shaun is appointed a Panel Arbitrator of the Thailand Arbitration Centre, a premier international arbitration centre in the ASEAN region.
- In recognition of his work on international technology disputes, Shaun is also appointed an Arbitrator on the Panel of the Bangalore International Mediation, Arbitration and Conciliation Centre, styled the “Silicon Valley of South Asia”.
Shaun also helps organisations develop and implement effective crisis management programs. His defining experience in this area was in his representation of a global healthcare company in a crisis management case in South Korea, where he was substantially engaged in all aspects of legal and strategic work around the case; including work on mass class action civil claims filed by victims, mediation, settlement and compensation, forensic investigations work in cooperation with Korean authorities, criminal defence work in relation to charged individuals, and strategic, legal advice regarding communications with media and political stakeholders.
Me in a minute
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I’ve selected law as my career really, and I suppose the genesis of it all would probably be due to my love for reading cultivated since young.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that I've selected law as my career really, and I suppose the genesis of it all would probably be due to my love for reading cultivated since young. My mum would bring my sister and I to the old MPH bookstore at Parkway Parade, and we would spend half a day reading books and she would then “force” to buy a few books each time. I went on to do literature at high school and that's when my passion for knowledge & books really accelerated. I started reading widely.
I think at the end of it all, a key essence to being a good advocate is to tell a good story, your client's version of the story. A good book (or movie, for that matter) is often open to multiple interpretations. It's really the same for the best kind of disputes, where top jurists are asked not so much as to interpret what the law says, but to interpret what the law ought to say, when the express legislation, rules and contracts have gaps that need to be filled in.I couldn't have asked for a better start to a legal career. It was an immense honour and privilege to be a Magistrate and Registrar of the Supreme Court at a young age, but with that comes an understanding of responsibility and duty. I learnt a lot - primarily, it was significant to understand the decision-making process of a Judge (or arbitrator), and know how the Judge would view different perspectives and balance different arguments.
I suppose in terms of most memorable judgments, one of it would probably be Titan Unity, where I felt very proud when the Court of Appeal endorsed the decision. Another memorable judgment would be Firstlink Investments v GT payment on the law governing an international arbitration agreement, which was recently endorsed by the English Court of Appeal.What I enjoy doing the most for my clients would be to develop an effective cross border strategy for my clients faced with a dispute. Most clients come to me with a binary mindset, obviously obsessing on the merits of the case and desperate to know if they can win, or if they would lose. More often than not, however, it is important to apply your mind to all relevant jurisdictions at hand, with focus on where the assets are. Developing and employing the correct strategy could achieve a fast, cost efficient, and decisive outcome that would be more important than anything else to achieve their objectives. I get a tremendous satisfaction doing that for my clients.