The Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award 2019
Many Routes to Professional Excellence and Success
It is well-known that the practice of criminal law is not the top choice for fresh law graduates. Often perceived as less glamourous and less lucrative than commercial litigation and corporate work, few young lawyers actively cultivate a criminal practice. Indeed, the 2013 Report of the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers warned of a “critical shortage” of lawyers practising criminal law, especially since most of the existing practitioners were “fairly senior” lawyers likely to leave the profession in the near future.
However, the conferment of this year’s Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate Award (the Award) on a young member of the Criminal Bar shows that such fears may be unfounded. Named after one of Singapore’s foremost advocates who was also a Judicial Commissioner and Senior Counsel, the Award recognises young lawyers with an outstanding record of appearances as counsel; service to the profession and the bar; and service to the community.
This year’s winner is Sui Yi Siong, a Senior Associate at Eversheds Harry Elias LLP whose primary area of practice is criminal law. The Award was presented to him by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the Singapore Academy of Law’s Appreciation Dinner 2019 on 15 August 2019.
The following citation was read out by the Law Society’s Vice-President Adrian Tan:
It was the selection panel’s unanimous decision to award this year’s Joseph Grimberg Outstanding Young Advocate award to Mr Sui Yi Siong of Eversheds Harry Elias. In addition to his excellent academic achievements, Mr Sui exemplifies the qualities which the Award seeks to recognize.
He was called to the Bar in August 2015. Prior to his admission to the Bar, he graduated Magna cum Laude from the SMU School of Law. Within his first few years in practice, Mr Sui made his way into the “Singapore Business Review” and was featured as one of the most influential lawyers under 40 years of age in Singapore.
He has consistently contributed his time and service to the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) and is currently serving as a member of the LawSoc’s Criminal Practice Committee. Mr Sui also regularly takes on pro bono cases as his belief is that an accused person deserves the best available defence. Despite his limited years of practice, he has argued criminal cases in the High Court and more recently in the Court of Appeal.
Nominated for this Prize by his mentor and Managing Partner, the reference letters for his nomination were provided by Law Society President Gregory Vijayendran SC and N. Sreenivasan SC.
Mr Sui took the path less travelled to arrive where he is today. Eschewing the appeal of high-value commercial work, he has found his call and passion in the practice of criminal law in the firm belief that accused persons are often the ones who need legal assistance the most.
Sui Yi Siong’s achievement is testament that there is no fixed path to pursue a successful and rewarding career in the law. In fact, it demonstrates that young lawyers taking the path less travelled can strive for and achieve professional excellence as well. The award of this Prize to Mr Sui Yi Siong is indeed an affirmation that there are many routes to success.
Young lawyers can thus take heart – despite the increasingly business-centric nature of legal practice, there is still a place for passion and grit in the pursuit of noble ideals. The conferment of the Award on a criminal practitioner shows that practising in the young lawyer’s usual top choices of commercial litigation or international arbitration are not the only pathways to attaining professional recognition.
More importantly, this bodes well for the criminal justice system. The proper administration of criminal justice depends on full and vigorous representation by defence counsel just as much as it does on fair prosecutors and an impartial judiciary. It is thus imperative that the ranks of defence lawyers are continually replenished by young lawyers with both head and heart, but if Yi Siong’s example is any indication, the future is bright indeed for the Criminal Bar.
It is hoped that Yi Siong’s winning of the Award will inspire fellow young lawyers and law graduates to pursue a career in criminal law practice.