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The Singapore Law Gazette

Law Society Annual Dinner 2023

We had a blast celebrating the legacy of our late President, Adrian Tan at the Law Society Annual Dinner on 10 November 2023. About 330 guests gathered at the Grand Ballroom of PARKROYAL on Beach Road to embark on a nostalgic journey back to the era of Adrian’s iconic 1988 novel The Teenage Textbook, for a night of reminiscence and celebration.

Memorial Edition of The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook for sale during reception hours

To complement the era of 1988, we had a delightful array of old-school snacks like tutu kueh, candy floss, traditional ice cream, and kacang puteh for the guests!

The highlight of the night was the posthumous conferral of the prestigious C C Tan Award to Adrian, a true legal luminary. It was a recognition of his extraordinary leadership on the legal profession. Justice Hri Kumar Nair graciously accepted the award on behalf of Adrian’s family.

Justice Hri Kumar Nair delivering the acceptance speech for the C C Tan Award 2023

We also celebrated the unwavering spirit of volunteerism of Peggy Sarah Yee May Kuen, our Pro Bono Ambassador 2023/2024 and the exemplary sportsmanship of Moiz Haider Sithawalla, the recipient of the Sports Personality Award 2023. Huge congratulations to Peggy and Moiz for the well-deserved wins!

President Jason Chan SC with Pro Bono Ambassador 2023/2024, Peggy Sarah Yee May Kuen

Sports Personality Award 2023 Recipient, Moiz Haider Sithawalla with President Jason Chan SC

Guests also put their knowledge to the test by participating in an exciting quiz, centred around Adrian Tan! The night also featured an impromptu best-dressed awards for both males and females. Award nominees did an unplanned catwalk to showcase their outfits. We applaud them for their spontaneous participation.

Guests’ enthusiasm during the quiz!

Best Dressed Male – President Jason Chan SC and Anand Nalachandran

Best Dressed Male – Michael Chia and Muhamad Imaduddien

Best Dressed Female – Toh Wei Yi and Kee Hui Yee

Best Dressed Female – Mori Ong, Goh Seow Hui and Carolyn Oh

We would like to extend our appreciation to the fabulous emcee, Vanessa Vanderstraaten and guests who added sparkle to the night, making our Annual Dinner an unforgettable one.

Remembering Adrian Tan: A Champion for Singapore’s Legal Profession

Adrian Tan took the helm as President of the Law Society of Singapore in January 2022, a pivotal moment as the nation emerged from the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this era of transformation, Adrian set out to inspire lawyers and rekindle their passion for the legal profession with a simple yet powerful message: “Make Lawyering Great Again”.

One of Adrian’s standout qualities was his exceptional communication skills. Recognising the importance of adapting to the changing times, he had championed the Law Society’s entry into the world of social media. As a Council member, prior to becoming President, he laid the groundwork for engagement with members on social media platforms, such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This strategic move enhanced the society’s outreach and connectivity with the legal community.

Adrian was a staunch advocate for lawyers, unwavering in his defense of the profession during trying times. His response to the Bar exam cheating incident, published in the Singapore Law Gazette, exemplified his dedication to upholding the reputation and integrity of Singaporean lawyers, addressing criticisms with precision and resolve.

Adrian’s faith in the value proposition of Singaporean lawyers was unshakable. He believed that lawyers needed to step into the limelight, dispelling misconceptions about their roles. Recognising the influence of social media in shaping public perception, he encouraged lawyers to embrace visibility, share their experiences, and make the profession more accessible to the wider community.

He also saw social media as a platform for meaningful dialogue on pressing issues and urged lawyers to actively participate in such discussions. Adrian believed that lawyers should follow the example of the tech-savvy younger generation, who used social media to connect directly with their audiences. He led by example, using social media to address current affairs and topics of general relevance. Through his adept communication, he not only reached the wider public but also provided a lawyer’s perspective on current issues in a manner that resonated with the broader audience.

In the realm of social media, Adrian became an unrivaled influencer for the legal profession, earning the title of “King of Singapore” and becoming the most recognisable social media personality within the legal community.

Adrian never let his illness get in the way of discharging his duties. He would always be cheerful at Law Society events. He made it a point to remain active in e-mail correspondence and attended the monthly ExCo and Council meetings, even when unwell. A particularly memorable moment was in May 2023 when, despite battling Covid and having lost his voice, he attended the ExCo and Council meetings. His commitment to his role as a President was truly exceptional.

Adrian’s unwavering belief in the worth of Singaporean lawyers extended beyond national borders. Although illness prevented him from travelling, he graciously hosted the Presidents of Law Associations of Asia when they visited Singapore in September 2022, overseeing a successful 32nd POLA Summit.

Adrian’s commitment to enhancing the profession went beyond social media. He played a pivotal role in the rebranding of the Law Society’s registered charity, transforming the Law Society Pro Bono Services into Pro Bono SG. His tireless efforts contributed significantly to bolstering the legal profession’s advocacy for pro bono work in Singapore.

Adrian also sought to bridge the generational gap within the legal profession. As a senior lawyer, he demonstrated how social media could be harnessed effectively, ensuring that younger lawyers could follow in his footsteps.

Above all, Adrian Tan had a profound vision for securing the future of the legal profession. He recognised that the vitality of the profession depended on nurturing the next generation. Adrian understood that for young lawyers to make a lasting impact, they needed to remain committed to their careers. To this end, he initiated an independent study to investigate the reasons behind lawyers leaving the profession, with the goal of identifying strategies to reduce attrition. This ongoing study promises to provide valuable insights that could shape the future of the legal practice in Singapore.

In conclusion, Adrian Tan was an exceptional leader who left an enduring legacy in the Singaporean legal profession. His advocacy for lawyers, dedication to embracing new communication channels, and passion for nurturing the next generation of legal practitioners will continue to inspire and shape the profession for years to come. His legacy reminds us that lawyering, at its core, is a calling — a lifelong commitment to making a difference in the lives of others. Adrian Tan’s legacy will continue to inspire lawyers to “Make Lawyering Great Again” for generations to come.

Acceptance speech for the C C Tan 2023, by Justice Hri Kumar Nair

I am honoured to receive the CC Tan Award on behalf of Adrian’s wife, Mrs Angelina Tan. I am sure all of us would have loved for Adrian to be here accepting it himself.

I was asked to say a few words. I know Adrian would want me to be funny – but I lack his talent for humour. The only time people are amused at my jokes is when I crack them in court and lawyers feel obliged to laugh.

As you may know, Adrian and I were classmates at NUS Law, and we both started our careers at Drew & Napier. Adrian was briefly in the Conveyancing and Intellectual Property departments, before becoming a litigator. His practice reflected his philosophy: he was often the advocate for the underdog – the individual dismissed by his employer; the oppressed minority shareholder; the objecting owner in an en bloc sale; the small business taken advantage of by a big corporation. That was sometimes a source of frustration – the under-dog often does not pay his bills. Regardless, Adrian would fight tooth and nail for his clients, but never in a manner which caused offense to the Court or his learned friend. It was a testament to Adrian’s personality and character that regardless of the outcome in court, his clients would invariably become his friends. In fact, after he passed, one of the many people who stepped forward to offer condolences was a person Adrian had cross-examined, and who expressed his admiration and respect for him.

Come to think of it, Adrian’s instinct to support the weak and helpless may explain why he was a life-long supporter of Tottenham Hotspurs.

Adrian practised law for about 30 years, but he was never more excited and enthused about his work than in his last two, when he served as your President. He was genuinely passionate about serving his fellow lawyers. I suppose he saw them as under-dogs as well: junior lawyers having to grapple with deadlines, long hours and stress; middle category lawyers on the cusp of partnership, wondering whether they can build a practice and questioning if this is the life for them; senior lawyers worrying about the changes to the profession, where the next instruction will come from and how much to pay the other two groups to persuade them not to leave. Adrian wanted to help them all.

I think it was that same desire that led to his frequent posts on LinkedIn. His goal was to demystify the law, so that the public could better understand the issues of the day and appreciate their nuances. These posts and his enormous following went some way, I think, to lift the standing of the profession in the eyes of the public – lawyers cannot be so bad if they had Adrian Tan as their President.

Death will visit all of us, sooner or later. What matters is how we choose to live the life we know we have. Adrian lived his to the fullest: representing the weak, serving his fellow lawyers and helping us find joy and laughter when we needed it most. This award honours his work and memory, but a greater tribute would be for members of the profession to come together and help each other navigate the rapid changes and challenges that are already upon us, while never forgetting to stand up and advocate for those in need. Adrian would want that most – well, other than Spurs winning the league.

Thank you.

Citation for Pro Bono Ambassador Award 2023/2024

In 2009, Council of the Law Society inaugurated the Pro Bono Ambassador Award to recognise the contribution and support by an individual who has an established track record of providing pro bono services for a period of five or more years.

Tonight, we recognise Ms Peggy Yee’s unwavering Pro Bono volunteerism.

Peggy is the Co-Vice Chair of Community Legal Clinics Committee since 2020 and a member of the Committee since 2018. Peggy is also a volunteer for Criminal Legal Aid Scheme.

Peggy also speaks at legal talks and webinars. For example, she spoke at the following events:

  1. Criminal Legal Aid for those with invisible disabilities;
  2. Transitioning of Legal Entity – Incorporating into a CLG Legal Considerations for Caregivers;
  3. Engaging and Managing Clients with Disabilities (volunteer training).
  1. In addition to her volunteer work with Pro Bono Singapore, Peggy is also the:
    1. Vice-President and Immediate Past President of the Catholic Lawyers Guild;
    2. Vice-Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Canossaville Children’s and Community Services;
    3. Vice-President of the Disabled People’s Association (strong advocate for children and persons with invisible special needs);
    4. Board member of Caritas, Singapore;
    5. Board member, Charities Council of Singapore;
    6. Member of LSS’ Family Law Practice Committee;
    7. Member of the Legal Sub-Committee of the CHIJ Board of Management.

Citation for Sports Personality Award 2023

The Sports Personality Award is aimed at recognising members of the legal fraternity who have demonstrated exemplary sportsmanship as well as contributed both qualitatively and quantitatively to the sporting fraternity for at least 10 years.

The recipient of the award for 2023 is Mr. Moiz Haider Sithawalla.

For more than two decades, Moiz has been a valuable member of the Law Society’s Cricket Team, its convenor and a member of the Sports Committee.

Since he took over as captain in 2015, the Singapore team has won every Bench & Bar cricket match against Malaysia.

Moiz was also the emcee at several Bench & Bar Games closing dinner.

Above all, Moiz believes that it is not about winning of losing but the spirit with which the games are played. This attitude has helped forged camaraderie and strong friendships with members of the Bench & Bar on both sides of the causeway.

The Law Gazette is the official publication of the Law Society of Singapore.