Selina S. Sagayam

Selina S. Sagayam, Partner, Gibson Dunn


What is your position and what do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I am a partner practising international corporate law at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. I have a varied and broad practice but with a strong emphasis on corporate finance transactional work i.e. doing deals (of all “shapes and sizes”) and providing advisory services for and relating to public listed companies and those aspiring to the public markets

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

I have been advising on corporate law since I was called to the Bar in October 1993...yes, that is nearly 27 years! I have however taken a few different paths along my career journey each of which have been inspiring and additive – I pursued a corporate/commercial master of laws, undertook two secondments (one in a multi-services financial services group and the other in a leading city regulator) and changed the mix of my primary role for a few years to prioritise business and professional development for my firm alongside sitting as a non-executive director on a couple of corporate boards.

Notwithstanding these apparent “deviations” along the way, the destination for me has always remained constant – to continue to expand and enhance my skills to be the best, trusted business adviser that I can be to my clients. I have always had a keen interest in politics and economics (reinforced by my upbringing), a passion for learning, taking on new challenges and really getting to understand my clients and the ever-changing operational, economic, political and social landscape within which they operate.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

In large part, it is the same feature which has resulted in both the best and worst part of the day for me…the unpredictability and the fact that no one day is the same. The thrill of the challenge of a new and unexpected problem, a seemingly impossible task and unachievable deadline has and can also be a source of frustration and the feeling at times of…how am I going to do this/how am I going to make this happen?! But equally, the sense of professional and personal satisfaction at seeing a day like this through to a successful conclusion is truly rewarding.

Any memorable cases or transactions?

I have had the great fortune of working on a number of landmark cases throughout my career – a number of “firsts” in their time – the largest fund of hedge funds acquisition, the largest M&A transaction in Asia, the first AIPO…and some “infamous” cases which have triggered changes in rules and regulations - each of them have brought me a huge amount of satisfaction – pushing the envelope, blue-sky thinking, hard work, drive and the “fine art” of bringing together multiple parties and interests.

However, the cases that have brought me the greatest amount of satisfaction and therefore to me will be the most memorable and will stay with me for years to come are those which have made an impact and real and perceptible difference to individuals – their business aspirations and objectives – a priceless “thank you”!

What advice would you give to junior associates early in their career?

a) Broaden your horizons -  take care in prematurely “specialising”
b) Remember that the learning never stops
c) Take the time to really understand the business and people that you are involved in advising
d) Always have a second look before pressing SEND on that email – think about the recipient(s) of the email – what do they need = what are they looking for
e) Always act with integrity and professionalism – if you make a mistake, speak up promptly!
f) Do not be tempted with the “short-cuts” – developing diligence and care from the outset is an invaluable skill

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I have had the fortune of being nominated for various legal technical and professional awards over my career, but if the truth be told, the one which has given me the most personal satisfaction (and bemusement) is being nominated as one of Brummell Magazine’s Most Inspirational Women in the City 2018. This is an award which aims to recognise the achievements of a broad pool of women who are leaders in their fields and who have had an impact in their companies and beyond. It was a privilege to be included in the list alongside my fellow nominees and those who have gone before me.

One of the key aspects which supported my nomination was the work that I do in the Diversity & Inclusion space both within my firm and beyond – I hope I can and will continue to be able to put to good the learnings derived from both the failures and successes that I have experienced in my professional and personal life, to nurture and support the people not just in the legal profession but further afield. One of the things I say to young people considering a career in the legal profession is the seemingly trite phrase to make the best of the profession, you have to “like and be interested in people”!

We are a people business at the end of the day…we provide a people-based service and our assets are our people – or at least we will do so for the rest of my professional career before AI takes over!


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Public M and A update (2019)
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