The death of Mei Lin Goh, one of Asia’s leading maritime lawyers, has prompted an outpouring of sympathy from colleagues, shipping industry clients and friends.
Mei, the former long-standing head of global law firm WFW in Singapore, died last week after succumbing to cancer. She leaves behind husband Michael and two teenage daughters.
An award-winning lawyer, she handled a range of high-profile work including advising lenders on the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping, Hapag-Lloyd’s takeover of United Arab Shipping Co, and major newbuilding deals.
But friends and colleagues spoke even more highly of her human qualities.
Lindsey Keeble, managing partner at WFW, told TradeWinds: “I first met Mei when I was a trainee in the London office and she impressed me immediately — not just as a lawyer but as a fantastic person with a huge zest for life, which I will always remember, and this is echoed by all of the wonderful messages we have received from clients and colleagues across the world.”
Mei joined WFW in September 1998 when it acquired her then employer Sinclair Roche & Temperley, having previously worked for WFW’s correspondent law firm in Singapore.
“I’m not sure that WFW wanted me along but I was determined that if the cappuccino machine was going, I was going with it!” Mei later joked to WFW’s in-house blog.
WFW senior partner George Paleokrassas remembers meeting her soon after she joined the firm.
“You couldn’t fail to notice her because even then she had huge presence and a larger-than-life personality,” he said.
“She was a superb lawyer who inspired great trust and loyalty in her clients but, above all, it is her qualities as a wonderful human being which set her apart.
“She was genuine, caring and generous with a great sense of humour. She leaves a huge void behind her and will be greatly missed by everyone who knew her.”
Mei was named ‘Best in Shipping’ at the Euromoney Asia Women in Business Law Awards in 2016 and 2019.
In 2020, legal reference source Chambers said she was “a strong leader and very knowledgeable”, and “has the ability to bridge the gap and find solutions even for the more complicated deals”.
Mei studied law at the University of Nottingham before being called to the Bar in 1991 to work as a barrister with the Crown Prosecution Service in London, then returning to Singapore in 1994.
“I wanted to be a lawyer when I was seven years old but, to put things in context, I also wanted to be an air stewardess,” she told the WFW blog.
“In reality, it was through a process of elimination that I ended up as a lawyer — I didn’t have enough musical talent to be a piano teacher and none of the other traditional professions interested me.
She said she “fell into the maritime sector” at Khattar Wong & Partners in Singapore.
“There was an empty office in the maritime department and I was offered a position in that department upon qualification — the international nature of the work appealed to me and it was a fun and lively department,” she said in 2019.
From there, she rose to be head of WFW in Singapore, giving credit to the company for being open.
“I do not believe that in WFW there are barriers or ceilings just because someone is female,” she said. “The biggest challenge though is still trying to balance family and work pressures, requirements, as these increase with leadership and even now — although there are more men getting involved in domestic matters — the bulk of the responsibility still falls on the woman.
“Women also do have to be prepared to put themselves forward more and to speak up — not to be aggressive or demanding but not to be afraid about coming forward.”
WFW is considering how to commemorate Mei’s life.