Can you believe it has been three years since Covid hit Singapore?
In February 2020, the country went to Dorscon Orange. Then, we progressed to Circuit Breaker, and law firms all over the island were suddenly shut down.
I remember chaotic scenes of lawyers carrying desktop computers and monitors home from their offices. We had to learn how to hold meetings over Zoom, attend hearings remotely, and carry out our work without the comforts of our offices.
The Law Society worked around the clock to coordinate with the authorities. In particular, we emphasized to the authorities the important nature of legal work. Lawyers were providing essential services, and helping Singapore businesses and Singaporeans carry on, while under lockdown.
Indeed, lawyers themselves were working overtime to protect their clients’ interests amid the fear and uncertainty produced by the virus.
Legal issues emerged: people didn’t want to wear masks, and claimed they were sovereigns. Others refused to be vaccinated, claiming that it was a form of illegal discrimination. Employers and employees, schools, and students, all struggled to cope with the bizarre world that Covid had put us in.
And so, three years passed.
In February 2023, we say goodbye to that world. Masks, TraceTogether, travel bubbles, VTL, daily temperature-taking, clustering, all those terms can be consigned to the past. Singapore is now in Dorscon Green.
But there are some things that Covid left behind with us.
As a profession, we’ve become adept at using technology. We quickly learnt how to argue cases, referred to digital court bundles and even carried out trials, without ever entering the courtroom.
I think those skills will continue to remain with us.
Lawyers have also tasted a new way of working from home.
Before the pandemic, we thought that lawyers needed to be in the office. Now we know better.
We’ve become more flexible and resilient. This pandemic could have been the legal profession’s darkest hour. Instead, it became our finest moment. Under difficult circumstances, we served our clients and served justice, as officers of the Court.