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Murali Pillai, SC

Partner, Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP

Practice Area:

Commercial Litigation
Appeals & Issues
Employment & Benefits

LLM, National University of Singapore
LLB (Hons), National University of Singapore
MBA, University of California, Los Angeles
MBA, National University of Singapore
Advocate & Solicitor, Singapore

T +65 6232 0768

“Murali is a highly trusted legal adviser, very knowledgeable and has a keen sense of commercial awareness. He is also a brilliant strategist.” – Chambers Asia Pacific

Murali Pillai SC is a Partner at Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP. He was appointed as Senior Counsel in January 2020. 

He has an active 28-year practice dealing with a wide spectrum of matters, including employment law and financial services. He also advises financial institutions on contentious regulatory matters.

Murali is acknowledged in various legal publications such as Chambers Asia Pacific, The Legal 500 and Asialaw Profiles.

Recently, he was recognised by Best Lawyer in Singapore (2025) for his Litigation expertise. Chambers Asia Pacific has recognised Murali as a market leader in the Employment practice (since 2016).

He was also named Singapore Lawyer of the Year in Benchmark Litigation Asia-Pacific Awards (2023). Asialaw Profiles (2024), The Legal 500 (2024), and Benchmark Litigation (2023) have also identified Murali as a Distinguished PractitionerLawyer to Note and Litigation Star, respectively, for Labour and Employment.

He was chosen as “In-House Community Commended External Counsel of the Year” for 2020; a choice made entirely by in-house counsel. One of the nominating in-house counsel commented that “Mr Pillai is an astute and highly-competent lawyer with a commercial mindset and fantastic people skills”.

He is commended in the In-House Community External Counsel of the Year 2018 as being “extremely skilled, knowledgeable and competent. Very practical, he picks up on commercial needs and concerns quickly. Prompt, despite being in heavy demand, he is a man of integrity who gives his best no matter how big or small the matter.”  

A regular speaker on contentious regulatory matters in various fora, including the Annual Cambridge Symposium on Economic Crime, Murali has also been instructed on a good number of compliance related and regulatory investigation matters involving financial institutions and other regulated entities.

 Prior to pursuing a career in law, Murali served as an Assistant Superintendent of Police in the Singapore Police Force.  He has also served on the Board of Land Transport Authority from 1 July 2018 to 31 August 2023 and Workforce Singapore (WSG) Board from 4 October 2016 to 30 September 2022.

With his team of top-performing colleagues, his commitment is to provide his clients with timely, business oriented and cost-effective solutions. 

Murali has argued several landmark civil and criminal cases in the Supreme Court of Singapore. He has also been appointed as arbitrator in both international and domestic disputes. Highlighted below are several of his cases.

Notable Cases & Transactions

Financial services work

  • Acted for a private bank in the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) against guarantors of a commercial loan in which the subsequent multi-billion dollar merger of the bank was called into question and successfully defended in the SICC and subsequently in the Court of Appeal.
  • Acted for a private bank against a beneficiary of trust which alleged that the bank had assisted an individual in committing a breach of trust. The case was dismissed after a trial on a preliminary point which resulted in a significant saving of time and cost for the bank.
  • Acted for private banks in several High Court and Court of Appeal cases where clients had alleged mis-selling, breach of contractual and tortious duties, etc against the banks.

Employment, regulatory and directors’ disputes

  • Acted for a financial institution to pursue a claim arising from mass departure of more than 200 of its advisers to a competitor.
  • Appeared before a special 5-judge bench in the Court of Appeal to successfully overturn a conviction of a company and its director and order for forfeiture of rosewood with an estimated value of US$50 million under the Endangered Species (Import and Export) Act.
  • Acted for a former Member of Parliament charged with offence of criminal breach of trust as an agent in his capacity as President of a National Sports Association. His client was acquitted without entering a defence. The acquittal was upheld on appeal too.
  • Acted for several multinational companies in employment matters which require enforcement of restrictive covenants to protect confidential information and secrets.

Commercial disputes

  • Acted for the biggest ready-mixed concrete company in Singapore both at trial and at the Court of Appeal against claims arising from the ban by the Indonesian government against the import of sand into Singapore.
  • Acted for a listed company against its joint venture partner in an international ICC arbitration concerning disputes arising from a sewerage and waste treatment plant project.
  • Acted for a listed company in a judicial review application against the Commissioner of Buildings to quash his decision against the company.
  • Acted for a purchaser in an aborted deal for shares in a company that was to be listed against the vendor sued to complete the deal in a well-publicised trial as well as its ensuing appeal.
  • Fellow, Singapore Academy of Law
  • Fellow, Singapore Institute of Arbitrators
  • Member, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, UK
  • Financial Forensic Professional, Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
  • Associate (Specialist), Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants
  • Contributing Editor, Singapore Civil Procedure (2020)
  • Contributor, 2 chapters dealing with “Scheme of Arrangement and Judicial Management”, Law and Practice of Corporate Insolvency, published by LexisNexis (2014)
  • Contributor, “Legal Systems of Asian Countries on Debt Collection”, Financial Law Journal (10 Feb 2014)
  • Contributor, “A Parent Company’s Responsibility to its Subsidiary’s Employees”, Law News, published by Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP (July 2012)