Ayomi Aluwihare-Gunawardene

F. J. & G. de Saram is the oldest law firm in Sri Lanka.

The practice was commenced in 1841 by F. J. de Saram. Snr., the same year in which the overland emigration to California began by wagon trail. Melbourne in Australia was founded only six years before that.

In Sri Lanka those were the early days of British rule; their conquest of the whole island was completed in 1818.

After the British captured the maritime provinces of Sri Lanka from the Dutch, in 1796, they accepted responsibility for the debt notes, known as Kredit Brieven, carrying 3% interest per annum issued by the Dutch regime. The Firm held these for its clients until its redemption 91 years later.

The economy under the British was built on the plantation industry. The Firm played a key role in the establishment and development of that industry. British planters turned the Island into what was referred to years later as “Lipton’s Tea Garden” after the name of the founder of the famous company. He was a client of the Firm. The Firm also acted for other pioneering planters, road builders and for individuals such as Charles Hay Cameron who framed the Judicial Charter of 1833 and sat as the member of the Colebrook Commission which introduced the first Legislative Council of Sri Lanka of modern times.

The contribution the Firm made to the development of the economy of Sri Lanka transcended to every other area as well.

Establishment of banks followed the expansion of the plantation industry. The Firm acted as the lawyers for most of these banks including the Mercantile Bank, the first bank established in Sri Lanka in 1854.

Throughout its history, the Firm has also played a major role in the development of the law of Sri Lanka.

F. J. de Saram, Jnr., was a member of the Council of Legal Education.

The Royal Commission on Banking appointed in 1936 recommended the establishment of an indigenous bank. Consequently the Bank of Ceylon Ordinance No. 53 of 1938 was promulgated. The legislation was drafted by the Firm.

The Mortgage Commission appointed in 1945 recommended major changes to the common law. The Firm represented the Commercial Banks Association of Ceylon which played a leading role before the Commission.

In recent times the Firm assisted in the restructuring of the electricity sector, in preparing legislation that established a public utilities regulator and the setting up of the regulatory framework for the electricity sector. A partner of the Firm was a member of the Advisory Council which drafted the new Company Law of Sri Lanka

The Firm lobbied for and had a modern law enacted on arbitration. The Firm played the key role in drafting this law and in setting up an Arbitration Centre affiliated to other international arbitration centres.

Since the inception of the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce in the year 1895, the Firm has acted and still acts for them, the premier mercantile body of Sri Lanka. In that capacity, the Firm has represented the Chamber before many commissions appointed by the Government from time to time relating to commerce and the economy.

The Firm acted as lawyers for the Colombo Brokers’ Association which operated the Colombo Stock Exchange in its nascent stage. After the stock exchange was regulated by legislation through the Securities and Exchange Commission of Sri Lanka Act, the Firm advised the Colombo Stock Exchange on the framing of its rules including the rules enabling scripless trading of treasury bills and debt securities.

Since 1861, when company registration began in Sri Lanka, many family owned plantation businesses and partnerships were converted to limited liability companies. The Firm attended to the incorporation of many such companies including the leading agency houses of the day that managed the major part of the then economy of Sri Lanka.

During the socialist era of Sri Lanka from the late fifties to the seventies of the twentieth century, the Firm were the lawyers for most of the State owned Corporations that were set up by the Government to engage in business, industry and finance, such as the Ceylon Steel Corporation, State Distilleries Corporation, Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation, Janatha Estates Development Board and the Development Finance Corporation of Ceylon. The Firm was also the lawyers for the universities that existed then.

As the years rolled by, the Firm continuously added to its portfolio of clients many of the leading companies doing business in Sri Lanka.

The pre-eminence enjoyed by the Firm throughout its practice continues to this day. In the diversified economy of Sri Lanka today, the Firm acts for one party or the other in most of the major commercial transactions.

As Deshamanya H. L. de Silva, Presidents’ Counsel, the doyen of the Bar, stated in his Foreword to the book, F. J. & G. de Saram – 160 year Practice of a Law Firm in its Historical Setting.

“But above everything else what was most noteworthy was their moral integrity and probity which inspired confidence and trust in all those who did business with them and for whom they acted. If we ask the question how this firm of lawyers succeeded in their collective endeavour – the answer surely is that the values and ideals, which the original founders of the firm fashioned for themselves, constituted a living tradition that was internalized and transmitted to succeeding generations of lawyers of the firm as a precious gift to the community, which they continue to serve. It is indeed a matter of admiration and pride to all Sri Lankans that the firm has preserved and maintained the noble traditions of its founders.”

Dijen Lea De Saram

Called to the Bar: 1976

Years with the Firm: Over 30 Years

Academic/Professional Qualifications:

– LLB (Hons) (University of Ceylon) (1970-1974)
– Attorney-at-Law, Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka (April 1976)

Areas of Practice:

– Dispute Resolution
– Insurance
– Tax

Work Experience:

– 1984 – to date: D.L. & F. De Saram (Partner since 1989)
– 1979 – 1984: Legal Draftsman’s Department/drafting legislation and subsidiary by laws of the government of Sri Lanka

Law Firm:

D.L. & F. De Saram is one of the oldest law firms in Sri Lanka, founded in 1898 by Richard Francis De Saram, and carried on in partnership by his sons, Douglas and Fred De Saram. This tradition has endured without interruption well into the 20th century when Fred De Saram’s four sons, Colonel F.C. De Saram, F.J. “Coo” De Saram, Robert De Saram and Maurice De Saram, and a nephew, Clifford Trevor De Saram, guided the fortunes of the firm. Interestingly, the tradition is kept alive by the present partners, Michael Sproule and Dijen De Saram, grandsons of Fred De Saram, and Savantha De Saram and Prabash De Saram, his great grandsons. De Saram’s is one of the largest full service law firms in Sri Lanka, which, while taking great pride in its rich heritage is, in these rapidly changing times, not anchored by its traditions.

With the globalization of the world’s economy, trade and communications have become truly international, and the legal needs of our global clients change on a daily basis at lightning speeds. Our team of partners and associates keep constantly on top of these changes as they apply to the Sri Lankan legal framework. We are confident that we are in a unique position to meet the needs of our clients, individual and corporate, domestic and international.

The firm has been consistently ranked as a top-tier legal firm by IFLR 1000, Legal 500, Chambers Global and Chambers Asia Pacific. We provide cross border legal services to major international firms in, inter alia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Europe and Australia.

Our highly qualified, versatile and experienced legal team specializes in infrastructure project development (including ports, power and energy, highways, etc.), with emphasis on PPPs and cross border financing. We acted as local counsel to the US $ 1.5 billion Port City Project, the largest infrastructure project undertaken in Sri Lanka. The firm’s M & A team has been involved in three of the largest M & A transactions in Sri Lanka: the acquisition of Aviva NDB Insurance PLC by Aviva Company; the merger of the Lafarge and Holcim entities in Sri Lanka pursuant to the global merger of these entities; and the sale by Lafarge Holcim of its shares in Holcim Lanka Limited. We also advised on antitrust implications of the Lafarge and Holcim merger under Sri Lankan law. Our M & A team advised GE Transportation on its recent purchase of supply chain software provider ShipXpress in Sri Lanka.

Our Compliance and Employment team advises International Financial Services firms and multinational companies on various aspects of Sri Lankan labour laws, including the preparation of labour contracts, collective agreements, employment and compliance guides and notebooks; we also undertake compliance audits.

The firm has considerable experience in advising clients on Sri Lankan anti-bribery and corruption laws, and assisting as Sri Lankan counsel in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 (FCPA) investigations. We also have extensive involvement in cross border banking and finance transactions. We recently advised multinational banks and financial institutions on financing transactions in Sri Lanka, with particular emphasis on Sri Lankan exchange control laws and their implication on cross border financing, including structuring transactions within currency regulations.

The firm undertakes company incorporations, including Board of Investment of Sri Lanka approved incorporations, and assists in the establishment of branch, liaison and representative offices. Through our subsidiary, Corporate Advisory Services Pvt. Ltd., we provide the full gamut of company secretarial services to over 500 domestic companies, many of which are listed on the Colombo Stock Exchange.

Anomi Wanigasekera

Anomi Wanigasekera is our exclusively recommended Intellectual Property Law expert in Sri Lanka on the Advisory Excellence website. If you need assistance in this area, please contact Anomi directly using the contact details above.

Anomi heads our Intellectual Property Group. She has extensive experience in the full range of enforcement, management and transactional matters pertaining to Intellectual Property law, including representing clients before the National Intellectual Property Office, acting for multinationals as well as Sri Lankan conglomerates in respect of infringement actions, applying for injunctions and search and/or seizure orders. She also overlooks the drafting and reviewing of contracts and advises on regulatory compliance matters.


Anomi Wanigasekera’s current list of memberships can be found below:

  • Bar Association of Sri Lanka – Life Member
  • Colombo Law Society – Member
  • Council Member of the Asian Patent Attorneys Association
  • Jt Secretary, Asian Patent Attorneys Association, Sri Lanka Group
  • International Associati of Protection of Intellectual Property (AIPPI) Sri Lanka Group – Member
  • Member of the International Trademark Association

Firm Overview:

Julius and Creasy is one of the oldest civil law firms in Sri Lanka. Founded in 1879, the firm has established itself on rich tradition and the highest professional principles. Julius and Creasy’ s wealth of expertise and experience in a wide range of specialised fields of Law enables it to offer innovative legal and business solutions to a diverse, sophisticated and high profile clientele.

Our firm from its inception has been involved in intellectual property work. Our work relates to both contentious and non-contentious matters. We file a large number of trademark applications for overseas clients being instructed by our associates in several countries including UK, European Union, USA, India, Singapore, Hongkong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and Korea.

We are also involved in registering overseas trademarks of well known exporters of Sri Lankan products

In contentious matters we represent clients both at the National Intellectual Property Office in opposition proceedings and in infringement proceedings before Courts, Infringement proceedings are instituted in the Commercial High Court and where necessary criminal proceedings are also instituted in the Magistrate’s Court.

Although our practice is to a great extent trademarks, we have substantial portfolio of patents as well. A large part of this portfolio is related to PCT applications filed in Sri Lanka, We also file number of design applications for overseas clients in Sri Lanka and for Sri Lankan clients overseas through our associates in various countries. We also have trained staff and do Patent drafting on behalf of our clients. We also advise on copyright issues including reviewing of copyright agreements and advise publishers. We engage ourselves in IP due diligence work and also file applications for registration at the Sri Lanka Customs.

Advisory Excellence Appoints Anomi Wanigasekera and Julius & Creasy in Sri Lanka (streetinsider.com)