Mr K Shanmugam was educated at Raffles Institution from 1972 to 1977. He then read law at the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he graduated at the top of his class with First Class Honours, in 1984. He was admitted to the Singapore Bar as an Advocate & Solicitor in 1985.
Mr Shanmugam went into private practice and became one of the Senior Partners and head of Litigation & Dispute Resolution at Allen & Gledhill LLP, which was the largest law firm in Singapore. Mr Shanmugam had a successful practice and was consistently recognised, in various international publications, as one of the top litigation, arbitration and insolvency Counsel in Asia and Singapore.
Mr Shanmugam has been described as one of the “twin titans” of litigation in Singapore, “regarded as a first-rate litigator”, “respected for [his] quiet, efficient and persuasive style”, “renowned”, “regularly singled out for praise” and “star litigator” (The Asia Pacific Legal 500, 2001 - 2007); “one of the finest all-round legal talents in the country”, the “complete lawyer”, and “formidably logical and aggressive” (Who’s Who Legal, Singapore, 2008).
In 1998, he was appointed a Senior Counsel of the Supreme Court of Singapore at the age of 38, one of the youngest lawyers to be so appointed.
When he was in private practice, Mr Shanmugam regularly handled trial work in major corporate, commercial and insolvency disputes for private and public listed companies; major international and Singaporean banking and financial institutions; multinational corporations; professional practices; acted for medical practitioners in malpractice suits and inquiries; and acted for lawyers, in disciplinary inquiries as well as in criminal proceedings.
He had also acted for senior government leaders in Singapore, including the current and previous Prime Ministers of Singapore. Mr Shanmugam also acted for the Chief Justice of Singapore, in 2005. He has acted for both local as well as international media, including the International Herald Tribune (“IHT”), in libel matters as well as in contempt proceedings.
More than 100 of the cases handled by Mr Shanmugam have been reported in the Law Reports.
Mr Shanmugam became a Member of Parliament (MP) in September 1988 when he was elected MP for Sembawang (Group Representation Constituency).
In Sembawang , he is an adviser to several grassroots and community organizations in Chong Pang. He is also an elected member of the Sembawang Town Council and an adviser to the North West Community Development Council.
Prior to accepting public office, Mr Shanmugam served in various committees and Boards, including the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health; Advisory Board of the Faculty of Law; the Raffles Institution Board of Governors; the Media Development Authority, and Sembawang Corporation Industries Ltd. Mr Shanmugam was also President of the Singapore Indian Development Association (SINDA) from March 2002 to March 2009.
On 1 May 2008 Mr Shanmugam was appointed a Cabinet Minister. He is now the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Law. He has also served as the Minister for Home Affairs.