The name Shelley Yap has been synonymous with the provision of legal services in Sabah for over 60 years. Our six decades of history started in 1962 with the commencement of legal practice of our eponymous founder, Shelley Yap Yeok Siew (later Datuk Shelley) in Kota Kinabalu.
In 1934, the Ipoh born Datuk Shelley began his illustrious legal career as a Chinese language interpreter in the Singapore Court just before his 18th birthday. Colonial government records show that in 1937, he worked as a clerk cum interpreter in the Labuan Court. In 1950, he was promoted to senior interpreter and later Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court of Malaya.
In 1954, he took leave to read law at the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn in London. Having been called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1956, he then resumed his service with the Malayan Judiciary as the Senior Assistant Registrar of the Supreme Court of Malaya. In January 1959, he arrived Jesselton, North Borneo to take up the post of Administrator-General and Registrar of the Supreme Court of North Borneo. Three years later, he ventured into private practice.
The firm was named Shelley Yap & Co in 1962. Soon after commencement, it grew into a thriving legal practice with offices in Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan. The lawyers who had worked with Shelley Yap & Co were Wong King Fun, Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan (later the 7th Chief Minister of Sabah), Datuk Clement Allan Skinner (later a Judge of the Court of Appeal), Datuk Lawrence Thien Shin Hing (later the President of the Consumer Claims Tribunal), Datuk Thomas Chia Swee En, Gerard Math Lee Min (later the Member of Parliament for the Gaya Constituency), Richard Christopher Barnes and Toh Puan Marina Tiu.
Perhaps done with the vision of growth in strength, the firm went through two rounds of merger. The first was the merger with Chong Chia & Co to form Shelley Yap Chong Chia & Co on 1 September 1979. Notably, Chong Chia & Co was the renamed successor of Chong Thain Vun & Co which Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Chong Kah Kiat (later Chief Minister of Sabah from 2001-2003) and Datuk Thomas Chia Swee En took over from Datuk Chong Thain Vun (State Minister of Communications and Works in 1976) upon the latter’s untimely death in the Double Six Tragedy on 6 June 1976.
On 1 February 1981, Datuk Shelley passed away at the age of 64 after a period of illness. In July of the same year, Shelley Yap Chong Chia & Co underwent another merger with Leong Tseu & Co, resulting in the formation of Shelley Yap Leong Tseu Chong Chia & Co.
From its humble beginning at Gaya Street in 1984, the firm was relocated to a larger premises at Wisma Pendidikan until today. In July 2007, we felt that there was a need to rebrand the form to a name that is less of a mouthful, hence the simpler name, Shelley Yap.
Today, we pride ourselves as one of the longest established and leading law firms in Sabah providing a wide range of legal services with no compromise to our professionalism. We are committed to discharge our duties with utmost integrity to clients and courts alike. We believe in embracing the fast evolving legal ecosystem by consistently upgrading our computer hardware and network, as well as video conferencing facilities to ensure smooth conduct of court hearings and trials over different digital platforms.
Having walked the journey for more than 60 years, our greatest asset remains our people and our culture that permeates everything that we do, by which our family spirit and sense of togetherness truly manifest. Our long-standing clients would appreciate the professional yet homely atmosphere of our office whenever they come for legal matters or just drop by for a chat.
Anchored in our rich history, we are resolute in perduring our tradition of excellence in delivering the best for our clients.