The Wind in Her Sails

(This article has been published in Praxis April-June 2014 Supplement )

The Praxis Legal Career supplement navigates the tides of maritime law with Ms Rahayu of Rahayu Partnership in this one-to-one interview.

Q: Ms Rahayu, we understand that your firm is specialised in the practice of maritime law. May I know of the type of works included in this area of practice?

Rahayu Partnership (“RP”): Maritime Law is a dynamic, niche, yet vast area of legal expertise. It takes experience and specialisation to excel. It demands understanding the breadth and depth of the law and having some familiarity with the maritime industry to be able to contextualise its legal demands. As with most areas of legal practice, the work encompasses both the contentious and non-contentious variety.

A complete maritime law firm would have the following legal expertise in its portfolio:

Contentious work: charterparty disputes, bill of lading disputes and other maritime contractual disputes relating to international trade and sale of goods, marine insurance subrogated recoveries, admiralty and ship arrest including collision, pollution and personal injury claims etc. Such matters would require expertise and jurisprudence of the procedures involved in the areas of litigation and ADR, i.e. arbitration and mediation.

Non-contentious work: ship sale and purchase, advising on international contract for the carriage of goods by sea and contracts for the sale and purchase of goods, drafting and reviewing of commercial documents relating to freight forwarding and logistics, shipbuilding and repair, ship financing, marine insurance claims and risk management. Such matters would require an understanding in the areas of corporate and commercial law.

For more information on the firm, you may visit
Q:  What differentiates a maritime lawyer from a lawyer who practises in other areas of law?  

RP: Like most specialists, one needs to have passion for one’s calling in life. With passion comes dedication and commitment. One could say that a “Maritime Lawyer” is not the same as a “Lawyer who does Maritime”.

Q:  Why did you choose to venture into such a niche area of practice?

RP: Charterparties! My first exposure to maritime law was when I chambered under a maritime law practitioner and had to deal with instructions requiring an understanding of the workings and complexities of a bill of lading and charterparties.

Q: How would you describe the work culture in your firm?

RP: As maritime lawyers, we invest our time and resources to first meet and satisfy clients’ needs and at the same time to build a learning culture. We have strong work ethics in collaborating closely with our clients, and spend more time rendering sound legal advice as opposed to mere litigation alone. We prioritise ourselves as solutions providers and problem solvers rather than just litigators and administrators. On top of that, we invest more time networking with the maritime industry players rather than just the legal fraternity.

Q: Does your clientele consist only of shipping companies?  

RP: Domestically, our clients include insurers for cargo, hull and machinery, shipbuilders, shipowners, venture capitalists, bankers, financial institutions, marine contractors, offshore players, port operators, liability insurers, freight forwarders, logistics service providers and commodity traders. Internationally, we work closely with the P&I Clubs and its correspondents, foreign law firms and recovery agents, amongst others.

 Q: What would be your top requirements or criteria in hiring associates/lawyers?  

RP: First, passion in shipping law. A maritime lawyer must also have the critical-, analytical- and systemic-thinking skills and creativity of a problem solver. Finally, tenacity, perseverance and a certain relentlessness in pursuit of a solution. One must possess strong self-motivation in overcoming hurdles and be driven to progress because maritime law is often a lengthy, time-consuming area of practice.

A young lawyer wishes to venture into maritime law practice should be prepared to do research, research, research, and then more research! Many issues will be unfamiliar to you at first, so shooting from the hip is dangerous. Look for mentors and be like a sponge – absorb everything. With time, you will develop speed and accuracy in your advice, the two most valuable assets a maritime lawyer can have.


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