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The Singapore Law Gazette

President’s Message

Dear Colleagues at the Bar,

For this month’s message, I have three major news items to share. Two of them are hot off the press. All three are especially relevant and timely in the context of promoting economic resilience in the legal profession.

Free Webinars

In last month’s OLY Speech, I said “An important feedback shared during the COVID-19 Impact Survey [2020] was that most members considered free or subsidised CPD activities to be the most helpful support. Attuning to the profession’s needs, and a strategic intervention, we waived registration fees for all CPD webinars held in the second half of last year for all Law Society members.

The attentive listeners during OLY and eagle-eyed readers of my OLY speech this year among you would have discerned that something was brewing when I then added : “Council 2021 will seriously study the application of a similar waiver this year after we review such hopeful help holistically”.

And indeed, a continued waiver was indeed on Council 2021’s radar. Picking up from where Council 2020 left off, Treasurer Paul Tan, the Finance Committee and our Secretariat team (especially Delphine Loo Tan and Pearlyn Quek), speedily crunched the numbers. The Council team decided early in the year that we were satisfied that we could fund another half year’s worth of free webinars for the profession to stimulate recovery and resilience. Credit also goes to outgoing Treasurer Daniel Koh and his Finance Committee team for initiating the discussions and dialogue on this towards the tail end of 2020 so that the present Council team could hit the ground running. The endgame from my point of view was to ensure a seamless continuity of the free webinars for the profession rather than disrupt the support. And that is indeed the case now. Law Society will continue to waive registration fees for our webinars from 15 February until 30 June 2021. So please avail yourselves of these gratis continuing professional development virtual offerings to secure your CPD points early.

[As a post-script to this and memory refresher, we have waived advertising fees for basic listings on the Careers Portal for all Singapore law firms until 11 July. So do take note of that too.]

First fruits of “Lawyers Go Global” Law Firm Tie-Ups

A thrilling development took place on Friday, 26 February. How apt that on the last day of CNY celebrations and “Chap Goh Mei”, we saw a “marriage” or “courtship” between Goodwins Law Corporation (a Singapore law firm) (Goodwins) and Sino-Win Law Firm (a Chinese law firm)! This was a marriage born out our “Lawyers Go Global” (LG2) Project. Significantly, it is the first post-COVID-19 alliance of its kind and also first fruits of the LG2 Project. On Friday, while witnessing with Shawn Toh the signing of the MOU between Goodwins and Sino-Win, courtesy of the kind hospitality of the Goodwins partners (including Founder and Chairman, Dr Toh See Kiat; Managing Partner, Ang Kim Lan; Pauline Ang; Daniel John and others), I said:

“One of the global objectives of the LG2 project is envisioning networking between Singapore and overseas law firms turn into best friends; turn into courtship and ultimately turn into a ‘marriage’ of tie ups and alliances. Law Society is pleased to catalyze opportunities and build platforms for Singapore law firms to develop relationships and alliances with overseas law firms. We are especially pleased to see the first fruits of the China-Singapore law firm ‘marriages’ via the Goodwins Law Corporation (Goodwins) and Sino-Win law firm’s alliance. China is a top destination for cross-border work. We see this MOU as a trail blazer in a post-COVID-19 environment of many more tie ups and alliances birthed by likeminded law firms including via Lawyers Go Global.

In the case of Goodwins, they participated in an inaugural exchange programme organised by Law Society that attached Singapore lawyers with Guangzhou/Shenzhen law firms. This helped Goodwins to nurture a strong in situ relationships with Sino-Win law firm. Congratulations Goodwins and Sino-Win. In coming together, this is truly a win-win alliance!

In closing, as a measure of the importance of international relations, our COVID-19 Impact Survey of members last year revealed that virtually half the respondents planned to expand their international practice in the post COVID-19 era. I believe that today’s historic signing on the last day of Chinese New Year celebrations is a harbinger of things to come. National borders are not international barriers.”

Dr Toh See Kiat, Chairman, Goodwins said during that ceremony :

“Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic in the past year, the lawyers in both Sino-Win Law Firm and Goodwins Law Corporation deepened their relationship following the gracious and warm hosting of one of our lawyers Ms Chi Ping Huey, the under the pioneer batch of the Lawyers Go Global programme in August 2019. Ms Chi was also honoured to represent the Law Society to speak at the 2nd Belt and Road Initiative Forum held in Guangzhou … . The initiative and drive by both sides, built on a solid foundation of goodwill and friendship, let to the culmination of this happy and joyous milestone. It is an early, precious and befitting gift as Goodwins Law Corporation celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.”

This tie up is an excellent example of the potential synergies that can be explored even though it is not yet business as usual from a travel perspective. We may be socially distanced but Goodwins have shown us that relationships can grow deeper.

And that leads me to the third and final news item on the how question to keep the relationships warm. This is one of the ways:

Friendship Building Through Virtual Networking

Later, on the same Friday evening, courtesy of the diligent and dedicated efforts of our International Relations team spearheaded by Shawn Toh, we organised a unique virtual networking between members of the Law Society of Singapore and members of the Daini Tokyo Bar Association. We already pioneered this with a similar event with the Guangdong Lawyers Association last year. This is what I said about renewing the MOU last year with our friends from the Daini Tokyo Bar Association:

“Subsequently on 6 January last year, on the sidelines of the OLY, the MOU was renewed in Singapore. Hajime Kanagawa-sensei, Vice Chair of the Committee on International Relations and Hirotaka Fujiwara-sensei, member of Committee on International Relations were present during the signing. I represented the Society. We do not automatically re-sign MOUs. But it was a measure of how both parties value this relationship that we were both eager to do so. In the case of Daini representatives, flying to Singapore in person as a strong commitment and loyalty to our friendship. Loyalty being one of the strongest virtues that we have seen in our Japanese friends.

In addition, under the Lawyers Go Global programme, I was very privileged to lead a delegation of 25 Singapore lawyers to Tokyo for an overseas mission in March 2019. There, we had an opportunity to visit the premises of Daini Tokyo Bar Association.

Today, the world is impacted by Covid-19 Pandemic in an unprecedented way. Travelling by air has ground to a long halt due to border closures. Borders may be closed but relationships are still open. National borders are not international barriers to either network or to get work. We are still highly motivated to keep conversations and camaraderie going despite the pandemic. To that end, we have been exploring ways to continue engaging in virtual dialogues with overseas Bar Associations to learn from one another and also network with one another. With advanced technology today, the sky is the limit. Virtual networking is the new normal and, in some ways, the next normal.”

So, there you have it. Flights may be grounded but the sky is the limit. With the tech tools available at our disposal, we have virtually a world of possibilities.

These few examples from the CPD stimulus package to a cross-border alliance born in challenging times to virtual networking are meant to sow hope and seed ideas for our legal profession. So, let’s keep on re-imagining and recovering economically even as we inspire each other to greater heights. The sky is indeed the limit.

Partner, Dispute Resolution
Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP
Immediate Past President
The Law Society of Singapore