In honor of Sidley’s 40th anniversary in Asia-Pacific, we sat down with Tai-Heng Cheng, co-managing partner of Sidley’s Singapore office. As global co-head of the firm’s Global Arbitration, Trade and Advocacy practice, Tai advises companies, boards, and governments across the globe on complex litigation, investigations, and government enforcement matters.
What led you to join Sidley?
There comes a point in your career when you think about what happens when you retire. I want to have done well by my clients and to know that they have got my back too. I want to be able to say that I went to work every day with a group of people who looked after each other. That for me is what Sidley represents.
Sidley offers a platform where I can serve all of my clients’ needs. We have more than 40 practices working together around the world. Whatever my clients need, I am able to find a business solution for them by pulling our multidisciplinary practice areas together.
What is your role in the Singapore office?
As co-managing partner, I aim to simply be there to help each and every lawyer and staff member be the best version of themselves. When you come to work every day, you see that buzz and these ideas emanating from many people in the office, and it is all targeted at doing a better job for our clients and delivering the value that they’ve come to expect.
What type of culture are you trying to build in the Singapore office?
Fortunately, we don’t have to build from scratch. The Singapore office is the oldest Sidley office in Asia. We’ve been here for 40 years, and there has already been this deeply collaborative, collegial culture that’s dedicated to excellence all across Southeast Asia. One thing that I’ve seen happen is that we have had a new influx of young and dynamic partners. That’s brought with it an energy, a drive, and an innovativeness that is really exciting to be part of.
What fires you up every morning to get up and get work done?
What I love most about the practice of law — and I’ve been doing this for 25 years now — is at the highest levels, we are trying to solve very complex, multidimensional global puzzles. The challenge of looking at something and trying to find an angle that no one else has thought of before, putting the pieces together, and, when it all falls in place, that’s when the magic happens. That’s why I get up every morning and do what I do.
Sidley has come so far in the last 40 years in Asia-Pacific. What are your goals moving forward?
That we will be here for the next 40, and I don’t say that in a trite way. Over the last 40 years, we have grown with Asia-Pacific. We have been there every step of the way with governments and corporations as they’ve become larger and more successful and moved from third world to first. And that’s no mean feat, because there was the 1997 financial crisis and other crises where other firms left the marketplace. We never did that. We’re in Asia to stay.
I think Asia is at an inflection point. In the past, the large businesses were more traditional industries, like commodities or shipping or real estate, but what we’ve seen is the think tank boom that has occurred in America is happening here. We’ve got more VC funds. We’ve got innovation and amazing companies that are leveraging the latest technologies. I think Asia has come into its own as a hub for economic growth.
I want to make sure that the Singapore office innovates along with our clients and anticipates their needs. I would like our lawyers to remain proactive about what’s coming around the corner, and think about how can we position our clients to be innovators in the global economy.