Building Icons and Shattering Glass Ceilings with Lynette Chew

In this interview, we have the pleasure of speaking with Lynette Chew, partner at CMS Singapore and director of CMS Holborn Asia. With over 25 years of experience, Lynette handles complex domestic and cross-border disputes as lead counsel in Singapore Courts and institutional arbitrations. Lynette has advised on notable projects such as the construction of Marina Bay Sands.

Lynette’s expertise in construction, projects, and energy work has earned her recommendations in legal directories, and her exceptional legal acumen and industry recognition make her a respected figure in the field, being the sole woman lawyer ranked for both contentious and non- contentious matters in the Chambers and Partners Asia-Pacific 2022 Guide for Construction in Singapore.

*The responses provided here have been rephrased for brevity and clarity. For the exact answers and a comprehensive understanding, we strongly recommend watching the full video podcast or tuning into the audio podcast.

Q: Could you describe your role as a partner at CMS Singapore and your day-to-day responsibilities?

As a partner at CMS Singapore, my role is diverse, involving various responsibilities. Primarily, it revolves around ensuring that client work is delivered with high quality and within the set timelines. Additionally, I focus on team management, ensuring that the team is properly utilized, and individuals are allocated the right amount of work at the appropriate levels. Collaboration with other partners within the firm and across offices is crucial, involving support where needed. There's also an administrative aspect to my role, addressing necessary but sometimes mundane tasks.

Q: What led you to specialize in the infrastructure, construction, and energy sectors, particularly in the context of disputes and project counsel work?

My specialization in construction and infrastructure was somewhat accidental. Initially, my interest was in dispute work, and I started as a commercial disputes lawyer. As I transitioned between firms, I ended up working with partners who were more involved in construction work. This journey included being project counsel for significant projects like Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Over time, the focus expanded from buildings to power plants, subways, and bridges, evolving with the type of work that came my way.

Q: As the only female lawyer accredited by the Singapore Academy of Law as the senior accredited specialist for building and construction, how do you navigate being a woman in a male-dominated industry?

Being the only female in a male-dominated industry involves developing selective hearing and amnesia while according courtesy and respect to colleagues. Preparation and competence are essential to stand firm and confident, even in challenging situations. While recognizing the inevitability of facing gender biases, especially in a tribunal or client interactions, holding one's ground, confidence, and the ability to deliver just outcomes are key. Despite some challenging experiences, finding enjoyment in the work, especially the thrill of cross-examining a witness, has been a sustaining factor for me.

Q: Can you share your experience with the Marina Bay Sands project and your key learnings?

Marina Bay Sands (MBS) holds a special place in my professional journey. It consumed two and a half years of my life, involving nonstop work every day. We were engaged in the project from its inception, participating in the Request for Proposal (RFP) stage and intensively during the building construction phase. The experience was memorable because it allowed me to witness the project's entire lifecycle.

The project involved collaboration with world-class consultants, project directors, and administrators. We worked in a mega site office that was an unparalleled experience—a self-sufficient space with food, showers, and offices. Negotiating contracts, understanding the intricacies, and interacting with various stakeholders provided a unique perspective that one wouldn't gain solely by drafting contracts in an office. The experience reinforced the importance of teamwork, as no great project can be accomplished alone.

Q: In your experience with cross-border disputes and projects across different jurisdictions, how do you navigate cultural aspects?

Dealing with different cultures in Asia involves a two-way learning process. Whether through conferences, research, or interactions with colleagues and clients, understanding the nuances of different jurisdictions is crucial. Cultural aspects are considered during case preparation, and staying updated on legal developments across jurisdictions is a norm. We will also send regular legal updates to clients to keep them informed on relevant topics across jurisdictions.

Q: For young lawyers considering a career in the building and construction sector, what advice do you have?

For those interested in the sector, persistence is key. Establishing a career takes time, and setting milestones every five years for self-assessment is a helpful approach that I use for myself. Confidence is crucial, and the art of persuasion goes beyond citing legal concepts and evidence. Learning to persuade others to align with your views is an essential skill in the legal profession. Finally, don't give up, always believe that you are good enough, and success will be achievable with dedication and consistency.

This article is brought to you by Bluente, the world's first business language learning app.
To find out more, visit us at

Back to Blog