Largest Law Firms in Malaysia 2020: Domestic and Foreign Firms

This is our third year listing the largest law firms in Malaysia. You can also read the 2019 edition and the original 2018 edition.

Like in our previous editions, we take the number of lawyers based on the Malaysian Bar legal directory website as at the time of writing. We total up the number of lawyers for the law firm, including its branch offices.

Year 2020 in Review

We start off with a brief review of the year 2020 for Malaysian law firms.

Largest Malaysia Firms

Zaid Ibrahim & Co remains Malaysia’s largest law firm. This is with a total of  156 lawyers, and where 101 lawyers are at its main Kuala Lumpur office. Zaid Ibrahim & Co has a large Penang branch office with 33 lawyers.

Skrine remains in the top-two category and is the largest Kuala Lumpur law firm with 112 lawyers. Shearn Delamore & Co makes up the top three in terms of size with 108 lawyers.

The list of largest Malaysia law firms remains at 13 large law firms. The threshold size appears to be around 60 lawyers and above. Once you go below this number, we then see medium-sized and smaller-sized law firms.

The table below sets out the trend in law firm numbers:

Further, the large law firm model has not headed to the 200-lawyer mark and beyond. In recent years, the largest single law firm size (excluding branch offices) has been in the range of 120-130 lawyers.

In a year of COVID-19 and movement controls, there were understandably no medium-sized law firm mergers and no big growth seen in lawyer numbers.

Law Firm Departures and Headlines

2020 saw certain departures from the larger law firms and with some news headlines.

Adnan Sundra & Low saw the departure of some of their dispute resolution partners, Ramesh Sathasivam and Melisa Tai. They joined Koh Dipendra Jeremiah Law.

In February 2020, Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill (LHAG) saw five partners leave the firm to set up the firm of Rosli Dahlan Saravana Partnership. The matter escalated to court proceedings.

In July 2020, Bahari Yeow and Lim Zhi Jian, former IP partners of LHAG, and their team, joined Gan Partnership. In November 2020, Dato’ Thavalingam also left LHAG to set up his boutique employment practice, T. Thavalingam & Co, with his team members.

In July 2020, three partners and five associates from Skrine left to set up the disputes boutique firm of Lim Chee Wee Partnership focusing on commercial litigation and international arbitration. Part of a trend of more specialist litigation firms.

In late October 2020, there was news that Zaid Ibrahim would be returning to the firm as Chairman of Zaid Ibrahim & Co. But in November 2020, it appeared that Zaid Ibrahim was terminated as chairman. This is now subject to legal proceedings.

Regional and International Legal Networks

There was activity in regional legal networks.

In March 2020, Shearn Delamore joined the regional network of Drew Network Asia (DNA). DNA is made up of Singapore’s Drew & Napier, Malaysia’s Shearn Delamore and Indonesia’s Makarim & Taira S. DNA aims to be a blue-chip legal network and we can foresee more firms in the region joining the DNA network.

DNA joins the growing list of regional networks and international firms with a Malaysia member. Singapore’s Allen & Gledhill network includes Malaysia’s Rahmat Lim & Partners, Rajah & Tann Asia has Christopher & Lee Ong, while Singapore’s Wong Partnership has its associate firm of Foong & Partners. International firms Baker McKenzie (with Wong & Partners) and Dentons (with Zain & Co) have a presence here.

2020 also saw Singapore’s RHT Law expand its Asian network (after RHT Law’s split from Taylor Wessing). RHT Law has an associated Malaysia firm, Paul Cheah Associates.

Growth in Group Law Practices

Among the small law firms, we see a slight increase in the number of registered group law practices (GLP). There are now 22 GLPs. In a GLP, up to five small law firms can operate together. But the firms remain as separate entities. Through the GLP, small firms can reduce costs, and also share their expertise. In November 2019, based on this speech, there were 14 GLPs. There is more potential for GLPs to be further refined (see some of the flaws outlined here).

We turn to the listing of Malaysia’s largest law firms and followed by foreign law firms.

Malaysia’s Largest Law Firms

We count down the list of the top 13 largest law firms in Malaysia. All images are from the law firms’ website.

#13: Shook Lin & Bok – 68 lawyers

shooklin.com.my

Shook Lin & Bok Malaysia maintains its position at #13 with total lawyers at 68.

 

#12: Wong & Partners – 71 lawyers

wongpartners.com

Wong & Partners moves down from last year’s 11th position to 12th position. From 75 lawyers to this year’s 71 lawyers.

 

#11: Raja, Darryl & Loh – 75 lawyers

rajadarrylloh.com

Raja, Darryl & Loh also moves down one position to 11th this year.

 

#10: Azmi & Associates – 78 lawyers

www.azmilaw.com

Azmi & Associates moves up from 12th position to 10th position this year. Its 78 lawyers are divided into 75 lawyers in its main Kuala Lumpur office and with 3 lawyers in its Johor Bahru office.

 

#9: Chooi & Co + Cheang & Ariff – 82 lawyers

ccalaw.com

Chooi & Co + Cheang Ariff moves down from last year’s 7th place to 9th place. From 91 lawyers last year to 82 lawyers.

 

#8: Christopher & Lee Ong – 87 lawyers

christopherleeong.com

Christopher & Lee Ong, part of Rajah & Tann Asia, moves from #9 up to #8 on the list this year.

 

#7: Rahmat Lim & Partners – 88 lawyers

rahmatlim.com

Rahmat Lim & Partners, in association with Allen & Gledhill Singapore, is at 7th position on the list. Last year’s 93 lawyers to this year’s 88 lawyers.

 

Joint #5: Adnan Sundra & Low – 90 lawyers

www.asl.com.my

Adnan Sundra & Low maintains its 5th position on the list this year.

 

Joint #5: Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill – 90 lawyers

www.lh-ag.com

Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill moves to joint 5th position this year. From 126 lawyers to 90 lawyers this year.

 

#4: Zul Rafique & Partners – 97 lawyers

www.zulrafique.com.my

Zul Rafique & Partners moves up from last year’s #8 to this year’s #4. From 90 lawyers up to 97 lawyers this year.

 

#3: Shearn Delamore & Co – 108 lawyers

www.shearndelamore.com

Similar to last year, Shearn Delamore & Co maintains its more than 100-lawyer number. It moves from 4th up to 3rd this year. From last year’s 111 lawyers to this year’s 108.

 

#2: Skrine – 112 lawyers

skrine.com

Skrine maintains its 2nd placing on the list. It is also the largest Kuala Lumpur law firm. This year’s 112 lawyers compared with last year’s 126.

 

#1: Zaid Ibrahim & Co – 156 lawyers

zicolaw.com

Zaid Ibrahim & Co maintains its streak as Malaysia’s largest law firm. This year, it has a total of 156 lawyers compared with last year’s 160. The breakdown of numbers from its offices:

  • Kuala Lumpur: 101
  • Penang: 33
  • Johor Bahru: 16
  • Kota Bahru: 6

 

Foreign Law Firms

In addition to the domestic law firms, the two foreign law firms continue to grow their headcount in their Kuala Lumpur offices.

Herbert Smith Freehills

herbertsmithfreehills.com

Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Kuala Lumpur continues with its steady growth. In 2018, we saw a headcount of 10 and in 2019, a headcount of 12.

This year, it has a team of 15 lawyers based in Malaysia. Peter Godwin continues to be the Managing Partner of HSF Kuala Lumpur.

 

Trowers & Hamlins

trowers.com

Trowers & Hamlins in Kuala Lumpur has also seen growth. It has grown from 5 lawyers in 2018, to 11 lawyers in 2019, and now to a team of 12 lawyers this year.

 

One thought on “Largest Law Firms in Malaysia 2020: Domestic and Foreign Firms

  1. Avatar KHOO BOON HAN 30 November, 2020 / 1:36 pm

    can do a list for largest law firm in selangor ar ?

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