GET TO KNOW CINDA
Cinda was admitted to the Singapore bar in 1991. Prior to being admitted, she chambered at the reputable Shook Lin & Bok, which comprised notable legal practitioners such as Wong Meng Meng, Philip Pillai, Tan Jin Hwee, Eunice Chee and Engelin Teh. Cinda was retained by the firm after she was called to the bar and continued with them for a few years, during which she decided to go into real estate practice. This marked the beginning of her specialisation as a conveyancing or real estate lawyer.
She subsequently joined a bigger firm and gained more exposure to prominent institutions such as the CPF Board and all the major banks then operating in Singapore. These institutions included Credit POSB Pte Ltd (predecessor of The Development Bank of Singapore Limited, now known as DBS Bank Ltd) and the CPF Board. They had very stringent procedural and legal requirements and expected their lawyers to keep them. Cinda quickly found her place in the small dedicated teams that served these clients and served them well for many years. Her job required very careful and meticulous dealings with the processes as well as legal documentation.
Cinda was also involved in the collective sales that debuted in the early 1990s, acting for the majority sellers for these en-bloc transactions. These transactions involved a lot of negotiations, meetings with the sales committees and other residents, and dealings with minority owners who objected to the sale, the Strata Titles Board and the lawyers of the successful bidders. The legislation for Strata Titles Board applications was subsequently introduced to give clarity to the legal process and requirements, and also to better protect the minority owners who objected to the sale.
The CPF Board was (and remains) a key public institution committed to safeguarding its members’ hard-earned retirement funds. The Board also had very stringent procedural and legal requirements concerning the usage of CPF funds to buy real property, to ensure that CPF funds were used only for the permitted purposes and to avoid leakage of CPF funds back to the members through unpermitted avenues. The Board’s panel of lawyers had to be very well versed in and with all these requirements.
Cinda is a pioneer of sorts, having experienced and worked through many “firsts” in Singapore’s real estate history and scene, which are now taken as the norm. One of these was the start of the collective sales trend of private estates. Another “first” was the birth of executive condominiums in Singapore. As with anything new, lawyers then had to understand the new legislation and rules relating to this new piece of real estate and work through the initial lack of clarity and uncertainty when advising potential buyers on the legal obligations and their financiers (i.e. the banks and the CPFB) in their legal documentation. Yet another significant event was the conversion of land in Singapore (which was then largely unregistered) to the Torrens system of land registration, through a very massive and gradual exercise.
“Legal practice has changed so much since the time I started,” Cinda says. “Many have predicted the doom and gloom of the real estate legal practice in Singapore, but I have never agreed with that. Everyone needs a roof over the head, and beyond that, people are getting more affluent. Real estate practice is very much alive and kicking, and I believe it will continue to be so for years to come (albeit with greater reliance on AI). I hope to help grow the firm even more in this once “bread and butter” practice, whether about the individual, corporate or institutional client.”