Colin Ong KC
Dr Colin Ong Legal Services
Suites 2-2 to 2-8, Gadong Properties Centre
BE 4119, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Colin Ong KC is internationally admired for his outstanding commercial litigation practice. He is highlighted as a doyen on a wide range of matters, from energy disputes to complex banking proceedings.
Colin Ong is a trilingual lawyer and a litigator at the English, Singapore and Brunei Bars. He is the first ASEAN-practising lawyer to be elected Master of the Bench (Inner Temple) and appointed as an English silk. UK Legal500 English Bar (AP) Commercial describes him as “lethal in his case strategy and as a cross-examiner.” UK Legal500 (Construction/Energy): “a very charismatic advocate who is exceptionally creative and a genius-level strategist.” He is ranked amongst the world’s top 30 arbitration practitioners (Expert Guides: Best-of-the-Best) (2017-2021). One of the most-in-demand arbitrators in Asia (Chambers Global).You continue to be highly sought after for your work on both Civil and Common law jurisdictions. What are the key differences when acting as lead counsel in civil and Common law-governed disputes?
The start of the journey and the end goal are the same. An advocate needs to capture the minds and hearts of the arbitrators. However, there can be a big difference as to how one goes about achieving the final goal. An advocate starts off by mastering the facts and then applying the correct legal principles to the case with a good strategy. Common law arbitrators tend to require a bit more cross-examination of witnesses, while civil law arbitrators generally prefer a more intense academic approach towards the key documents and the main principles of law.
What would you say are important qualities for the successful modern litigator?
A successful litigator has to be a master of the law, possess a hands-on practical approach, be diligent and be prepared to work around the clock. One has to be able to select the strongest arguments to present a credible case. It is important to be able to manage the direction of litigation in an advantageous manner that also allows the client to focus on their day-to-day business.
As an appointed silk in England and a civil law disputes specialist in Asia, how do you see the global growth of arbitration affecting your practice
Asia has been the centre of gravity in the arbitration world for the last few years. The majority of my arbitration cases have, for 17 years, been civil law-based and Asian-based. This continued shift of cases towards Asian seats helps my practice, as most of the Asian countries are civil law jurisdictions. The natural ability to think from a civil law perspective, coupled with the advocacy skills of an English silk, have served me well both as counsel and as arbitrator.
How has technology created greater efficiencies in your day-to-day practice?
Technology allows me to work around the clock and across different jurisdictions with ease. It allows me to quickly assess vast amounts of documentation for relevance and check through proposals advanced by opponents and my solicitors.
What are the main challenges facing litigators when it comes to enforcement of judgments today?
Knowing where the opposition’s assets are located, level of judicial assistance in foreign countries, costs, time and the enforcement process itself.
What skills are needed to successfully collaborate with lawyers, experts and authorities in different jurisdictions?
Patience, team spirit and knowledge of the law, as well as the industries, of those jurisdictions. It is also important to remain humble, direct and simple. Counterparts tend to prefer working closely with a person they like and trust.
What is your philosophy behind your approach to commercial dispute resolution?
It is important to be dedicated, hard-working, maintain a hunger for the law, and to always carry out one’s duties with integrity. I always enjoy challenging cases where I have to think outside the box to find solutions for my client.