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The Singapore Law Gazette

Citation for C C Tan Award 2020

This citation was read by President Gregory Vijayendran SC at the presentation of the C C Tan award on 31 December 2020.

Good morning friends. It is my privilege and honour to read the citation for the C C Tan Award of 2020. We are obviously in novel and unusual circumstances. Ordinarily, we would have presented the highest award of the Law Society during our Annual Dinner & Dance. But this is the next best.

The C C Tan Award is named after the first President of the Law Society of Singapore, Mr Tan Chye Cheng or C C Tan as he was known. C C Tan had a long and distinguished professional career. He embodied the finest and noblest virtues of the legal profession – honesty, fair play, gentlemanliness and personal integrity. Since 2003, it has been the Law Society’s annual tradition each year to recognise and honour a member of our profession who best personifies the model example and ideals set by our very first Bar President.

Our C C Tan Award recipient this year is the illustrious Mr Philip Jeyaretnam SC.

Philip graduated with first-class honours in law from Cambridge University in 1986. He was admitted to the English Bar in 1987 and Singapore Bar in 1988. In 2003, at the early age of 38, Philip was conferred the title of Senior Counsel, one of the select few lawyers under the age of 40 years to receive this elite distinction.

Philip’s exemplary leadership qualities saw him head several high-profile institutions. He served as President of the Law Society from 2004 to 2007. A capstone during his presidency was Singapore’s hosting a successful IBA Annual Conference in 2007. Our Immediate Past President, Thio Shen Yi SC, commented: “Philip held the fort during a difficult period, part of it during the YPH years, and served a sentence of four years, after which he remained an active contributor to the profession.” Indeed, Philip continued to contribute invaluably to the profession. To single out two key leadership roles: first as Chair of our International Relations Committee that oversaw two Biennial Lectures held under the Law Society Biennial Lecture programme, and second, Chair of the Inquiry Panel since 2011 until a few years ago.

His accomplishments also encompass his meteoric rise in his work career. In his workplace, Philip was named managing partner of Rodyk & Davidson, Singapore’s first and oldest law practice, on 1 January 2011. He steered the firm’s successful combination with Dentons in 2016 to form Dentons Rodyk, a global law powerhouse. He presently serves as global vice-chair and ASEAN chief executive officer at Dentons.

A renowned commercial litigator and international arbitration counsel, Philip has acted in a number of high profile cases including representing The Wall Street Journal on issues arising from its coverage of the 1MDB affair and defending the Papua New Guinea Sustainable Development Programme against a suit by the Government of Papua New Guinea.

Despite his remarkably busy schedule, Philip carved out time to serve the nation in public service. Since 2009, he has served as a member of the influential Public Service Commission. And since 2012, he has been a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights advising the President on the equality provisions of the Constitution. In addition, Philip has served as Chairman of Maxwell Chambers, the unique integrated ADR complex located in Singapore, since 2010.

Litigators are known to be strong and competitive personalities. Indeed, Philip relishes his battles in court. He said: “My best days are spent right in the thrust of battle in court. I find it exciting, the adrenaline is up.” Yet, he never fails to temper his competitiveness with humility and putting clients’ needs first. His gentle, articulate, elegant and charming manner shows how comfortable he is in his own skin. An advocate extraordinaire, he carries his own inimitable court style (which both seniors and juniors seek to emulate). I have been trained by Philip in his master classes in advocacy not just didactically (during his active Advocacy Training days) but also in masterful, classy demonstration. Who’s Who Legal 2021 ranked Philip as a Global Elite Thought Leader and said that he is a “leading light in construction litigation matters” known for his “intelligent and respectful” litigation style.

In every interview, he conveys nothing less than a quiet, modest reserve and a strong ethos that leadership responsibilities and commitment must be taken seriously. He is a skilful and stylish communicator as many of us who have grown up on his literature can attest to. Incisive and decisive, his hallmark in verbal communication is an economy of words that communicate effectively and are pregnant with meaning.

A builder, he says: “I want to do things that are meaningful, that are helpful to people, that build things for the future. I want to give opportunities to others. I want to grow myself.” An example of that building is serving as Founding Chairman of the Society of Construction Law from 2002 to 2004. Adrienne Clarkson said: “Each of us is carving a stone, erecting a column, or cutting a piece of stained glass in the construction of something much bigger than ourselves.” That is precisely what Philip has consistently done as a master builder in the leadership roles he has assumed to date.

I had the privilege of singing together with Philip in the Singapore Association of Women Lawyers music video this year. It was thankfully not cringe-worthy but an opportunity for us to warble for a good cause. I quite suspect that there is good reason why Philip and I chose to practise law rather than crossover to a singing career like Rani Singam! Many practitioner members of the profession like me hope to sing the right tune and strike the right chord with Philip during court hearings before him after his elevation to the Bench on 4 January 2021. Congratulations Philip on your fitting and deserving appointment to the judiciary!

Philip exemplifies the exceptional values celebrated by the C C Tan Award. He is a fine model for younger lawyers to aspire to. On behalf of the Council of the Law Society, it is my great pleasure to present Philip Jeyaretnam with the C C Tan Award 2020.

President Gregory Vijayendran, SC (left) with Mr Philip Jeyaretnam, SC.

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