Q: Tell us about Putri Norlisa Chair (PNC Law).
PNC Law commenced operations on October 1, 2015. We have a very nimble and niche setup, built on our core practice areas in Banking and Finance, Corporate-Commercial, Mergers & Acquisitions and Projects, Energy and Infrastructure, Capital Markets, Telecommunications and Technology, Advisory and Compliance, and Corporate Real Estate. We are helmed by three partners, Adrian Chair (as Managing Partner), Putri Norlisa Najib (Founding Partner) and Constance Low.

Adrian is well regarded in the industry in the field of corporate, projects, energy (including oil & gas) and infrastructure, M&A, telecommunications, banking, capital markets and derivatives. He has 20 years’ experience in the industry and has worked on many head-lining transactions and many firsts in Malaysia.

Putri having previously trained and worked with Eversheds in London has earned a stellar reputation in banking and finance, with a particular focus on cross-border financing, acquisition finance, project finance and shipping finance, and currently also leads the advisory practice at PNC Law.

New York-qualified Constance (one of the few who is based permanently in Malaysia) has previously worked with Linklaters in New York and London and works primarily on M&A deals, joint ventures, corporate-commercial and derivatives, and handles both inbound and outbound investments.

In a nutshell, PNC Law is about the vision of its partners in founding and establishing a legal practice driven with a clear commitment and vision to be the first name for the client, armed with the entrepreneurial drive and enterprise to empower our clients with the winning strategy where we will be pushing the envelope, thinking in advance and be firmly focussed on the task ahead so as to provide our clients with the peace of mind to reach their goals and strategic and commercial objectives. We recognise that in reality (when stripped to the core) this is really what our clients want, and in doing so, this will also be what is best for PNC Law. We challenge ourselves daily to follow through on this commitment and vision and not to lose sight of the ultimate objective at hand. Ours is not to win a battle only to lose the war.

Q: What sets you apart from other available legal services both in Malaysia and more generally in Asia?
We believe there are three fundamental tenets which set us apart from our competitors in Malaysia. These are:
Business and Commercial Acumen. When advising on matters, we go beyond strictly legal matters – which is what legal practitioners traditionally confine themselves to – but we strive to offer pragmatism and practical commercial solutions to testy legal situations.

Depth and Execution Capability. We have the courage to be different and not be strictly bound by convention or expectations, but instead pioneer thought and ideas, developing many new firsts along the way. When advising on a matter, the partners take a firm grip of all matters, from legal strategies and solutions, to the grind of the implementation and execution of the transaction. This allows us to plan and think ahead and respond very quickly to the changing landscape, where often the pitfall is the inability to execute and implement what was being etched out on the drawing board.

As a large extent of our work has cross border elements, we have a clear and precise understanding on how to play the role of lead counsel in a multi-jurisdictional transaction where we become the single point of reference for the client. In short, we perform exceptionally well in complex transactions on tight schedules, and aim always to provide expedient and effective responses, bringing order and structure in a myriad of complexity.

Exceptional Value Proposition. We continually challenge ourselves to grow as a firm and provide bespoke and form fitting solutions through innovative means and to provide an exceptional value proposition at fair and reasonable rates. As a relationship-driven firm, we manage and nurture the relationship which we have forged with our clients pro-actively, and seek to provide an exceptional value proposition for the services offered, which is at the forefront of our thoughts.

Q: Are there any practice areas you are considering expanding into beyond those you already cover?
We have no immediate plans to expand beyond our core practice areas as we believe our current practice areas offer a very good foundation to service our clients. To complete the full-service corporate capability of PNC Law in Malaysia, we have arrangements with specialist tax practitioners, litigators and arbitration practitioners, intellectual property practitioners, financial advisors and management consultants, whom we work well and team up with where the situation warrants.

On the regional and international front, we have strong and established relationships with regional players, magic circle firms with large international reach, and Wall Street firms who can advise on US deals. With the coverage we can offer in-house and our arrangements with specialist practitioners and regional and international players, we are able to provide full service capability to our clients.

Q: Given what you have seen in both local and international law, where do you see legal practice heading in the next five to 10 years?
We see legal practice evolving in these three aspects:
Expectation and increased sophistication of the clients: In recent times, we have seen the changing expectation and increased sophistication of clients, which results in the evolution of the legal practitioner into one who is able to not only provide legal solutions effectively, but also have business and commercial acumen, be involved at the heart of the business decisions and provide value-add on the commercial and strategic front. Clients expect the lawyers to be acutely aware of the business considerations and how the business operates, to be able to provide effective and workable solutions. This requires a paradigm shift in the way lawyers traditionally operate.

Fee pressure and legal outsourcing: Although legal fees as a whole in Malaysia are relatively affordable as compared to those charged across the region, the days of charging premium fees on time-costs for what are essentially operational and administrative matters is coming to a fast close. Clients have to manage increasingly tighter budgets, and as such, time-based charges are fast becoming obsolete, with the client opting for more cost efficient options and requiring fee or time caps.

The clear message from clients is they want a value proposition from advisors, and that includes minimising work where required, engaging them on how best to address run-of-the-mill legal matters, minimise costs without having to break the bank and to avoid having to run up time on the clock where it is unwarranted.

In-house legal departments are more than ever being viewed as a drain on resources, a cost centre and a burden on profitability, and are increasingly asked to justify their existence and under constant pressure lower their budgets and their headcount. Practitioners must be sensitive to such needs and be able to help in-house departments meet their KPIs in this regard.

Alliances: With the advent of globalisation and the opening up of the legal industry in Malaysia and the spate of regional tie-ups of late, we do expect to see more formal or informal alliances being formed in the legal circle. To be able to compete effectively, particularly on cross border deals, clients expect end–to-end solutions with quality assurance, and one way of ensuring this is to build alliances and a network of friends from firms which are like-minded and with a similar work culture. This will also have the added benefit of cross population of ideas and for the lawyers themselves to have the added incentive to perform on par with their foreign counterparts.

As to whether large international law firms will formally set up shop in Malaysia, this is not something which we envisage in the near future as most large international firms have already set up regional headquarters in Singapore and/or Hong Kong which provides adequate coverage for their Malaysian clientele.

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