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Gavin Margetson - Mishcon de Reya

Singapore Spotlight: Gavin Margetson

Posted on 5 July 2024

This article is part of our Singapore Spotlight series, profiling our lawyers based in our Singapore office. In the series, we find out about their backgrounds, their journey through law and hear why Singapore is important to them.

Gavin is a Dispute Resolution Partner in our Singapore office. His practice includes international arbitration, cross-border litigation, and corporate crime & investigations.

I knew I wanted to get into law when… around the age of seventeen, as I was choosing my university degree, I decided to become a lawyer. It's difficult to pinpoint a precise reason, but I blame the TV programme 'LA Law' from the 80s and 90s.

I chose International Arbitration because… actually, international arbitration chose me. I was a High Court litigator and I moved to Tokyo with Herbert Smith in 2004. I stayed in Japan for a decade before moving to Singapore. As an international disputes lawyer, when a client with a problem gives you a contract, you look at the back hoping there is an arbitration clause. Arbitration is the preferred choice for cross-border deals and investment. So I ended up acting for Japanese clients as arbitration counsel and I became a full convert who does his own advocacy.

The thing that motivates me most is… doing a good job for the client. When a client places their trust in me, the weight of responsibility pushes me to work hard and deliver the best result possible.

The work achievement I'm most proud of is… I am particularly proud of winning a series of arbitrations for the shipbuilding department of a Japanese conglomerate. I was told winning the arbitrations saved the department from being closed down by the Board, which would have affected about 30-40 employees. 

The thing that makes Singapore such a great place to live is… Singapore has just got a lot of things right for its residents. It's safe (no street crime), developed, has good public transport, minimal traffic and its incredibly convenient to come in and out of – Changi airport is the best in the world.  

One opportunity in this region… Singapore is the centre for international dispute resolution in Asia. European and American companies investing in Asia usually choose Singapore as the preferred venue. The same is true for intra-Asia deals. Singapore is heavily lawyered, but the pie is huge.

Somebody that has inspired me during my career is… Sonya Leydecker, who became Head of Litigation and then CEO at Herbert Smith. She managed to climb the corporate ladder, not easy as a woman in the 90s/2000s at a firm like Herbert Smith, yet remain a thoroughly decent human being.

One thing I wish I knew when I started my career is…investment bankers get paid a lot of money don't they?

One future trend in my practice area is… there is a common view that AI will replace lawyers in dispute resolution, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Technology will continue to chip away at the number of lawyers needed for cases, but it won't replace them for a while yet.  Otherwise, trade between China and the US is booming despite all the signs of Cold War II, and I think this will continue – the more trade in the region, the more disputes there are, so this is a good thing.

One thing you don't know about me is... since Covid, I've started my transition into an old man shaking his fist at the passing youth. My focus has been very much on my kids - teaching them history and maths (school seems like a social club) and trying to keep them off their devices (a losing battle). I've developed a habit of listening to history podcasts (shout out to the History of Rome and History of Byzantium). Currently, I seem to be studying again for a Modern World History GCSE, albeit I remain hopeful that my daughter will be the one sitting the exam…

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