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The Singapore Law Gazette

Law and Liberal Arts Education

Presenting a Multidisciplinary View in the Legal Profession

The Double Degree Programme in Law and Liberal Arts (DDP) is a five-year honours programme offered jointly by Yale-NUS College and Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore (NUS Law).

Designed for intellectually driven and globally minded students, DDP prides itself for providing students with the best of both worlds – a rigorous, interdisciplinary legal education in a residential liberal arts and science setting. Students receive a broad-based liberal arts and science education and professional training in the law, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (with Honours) degree from Yale-NUS College and a Bachelor of Laws (with Honours) degree from NUS Law. With a focus on preparing students for the global challenges of the 21st century, liberal arts education at Yale-NUS brings diverse perspectives together resulting in an interdisciplinary learning across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities.

Since welcoming its first cohort in 2013, the DDP has been successful in attracting talented students who seek to engage in multiple disciplines and create impact in local and global landscapes. The first three cohorts who graduated in 2018, 2019, and 2020 have joined a wide range of organisations, such as local and international law firms, and other private, public and non-governmental sectors. Here are the experiences of eight alumni in their own words:

Amelia Chew (Class of 2018)

Since graduating from the DDP, I have been exploring how technology impacts the way we live and work, first at a legaltech start-up marketing an AI platform for document review, and now at the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office working on Singapore’s national digital identity programme. I credit my DDP experience for equipping me with the skills and mindset for tackling challenging issues, whether this is how the legal industry can harness technology to deliver legal services more efficiently or how a digital identity system can enable citizens and businesses to perform digital transactions more securely and conveniently. Laws and policies are not understood or practised in isolation but rather are to be understood and applied in the context of a particular field or industry. My DDP experience exposed me to a diverse range of perspectives and enabled me to build an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems. My experience building student organisations and school culture from scratch as part of the first batch of Yale-NUS DDP undergraduates also helped me to grow comfortable with navigating uncertainty and ambiguity in a fast-paced environment, an essential skill when tackling complex problems involving multiple stakeholders.

Kinnari Sahita (Class of 2018)

I was part of the inaugural class of Yale-NUS College and the DDP. I was called to the Singapore Bar in 2019 and am currently an M&A associate in a Big 4 firm. I had a great experience in the DDP – being part of the founding class of Yale-NUS was an extremely unique experience that I remain very appreciative of. I have fond memories of my time living in the residential colleges at Yale-NUS and taking classes in a variety of disciplines – I took classes ranging from creative writing and literature to philosophy and statistics. My most memorable class at Yale-NUS was an introductory creative writing class taught by former Professor of Humanities and Director of Writing Programme Robin Hemley. This class taught me how to create and structure my thoughts in a completely different manner compared to what I had experienced in law school. I am also appreciative of the international experiences I received through Yale-NUS: for example, I spent two months in Argentina on an immersion programme, and travelled to Myanmar for a week-long trip focusing on travel writing. I believe that the broad-based education that I received, thanks to the DDP, has sharpened my analytical skills and broadened my horizons, and I am very grateful for this experience. 

Daryl Yang (Class of 2019)

The DDP offered me the best of both worlds to deepen my understanding of the world around me and develop the legal skills to engender meaningful social change. I also had the chance to study abroad at Yale University, such as a summer programme on global health and filmmaking in Eswatini with the Yale School of Public Health, and another on law and bioethics at the Yale Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioethics.

My interdisciplinary education has helped me to contribute meaningfully during my internships abroad at a public interest law firm in San Francisco and an international human rights non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Geneva. Combining my training in law and anthropology, my capstone project was an ethnographic study on the effect of the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on disability advocacy in Singapore.

Being at both campuses also allowed me to meet people from diverse backgrounds and different interests. With friends from both Yale-NUS and NUS Law, I co-founded Community for Advocacy & Political Education (CAPE), a student group which focuses on increasing political literacy and effective change-making among young people in Singapore.

I was recently called to the Singapore Bar and am practising employment law at an international firm. Having enjoyed a fulfilling undergraduate academic career, I plan to pursue graduate studies to further my interests in disability legal studies and public law.

Lu Zhao Boyu (Bozy) (Class of 2019)

Looking back at my DDP experience, what I found memorable were the eye-opening and enriching opportunities that explored the influence of law on our community. Particularly, my major in Psychology provided me with a strong foundation in understanding the intricacies of human behaviour. As a practitioner in community law, I often deal with complex, sensitive and emotional personal and familial matters. In analysing conundrums posed by my clients, the rigorous and interdisciplinary training in the DDP continues to push me to consider multiple angles in crafting effective solutions.

I also deeply appreciate my interactions with school mates from various disciplines – chatting with folks from non-law-related industries was not only interesting and enlightening, but also a good reminder that the law does not exist in a vacuum. For instance, we would speak about topics ranging from the trial of Socrates, statistics and coding, mental health advocacy, to theatre and comedy. When I meet with clients from various walks of life, being able to strike a casual conversation has helped me to better understand their perspectives and needs. Moving forward, I am eager to continue learning and serving people who need assistance in community law and building meaningful relationships along the way.

Jessica Teng Sijie (Class of 2019)

I have greatly benefited from the DDP’s multidisciplinary engagement with the law. While my NUS Law education provided me with the tools I needed to understand the law and our legal institutions, Yale-NUS’ broad-based curriculum deepened my understanding of the economic, political and social drivers that shape our legal and regulatory environment.

One of my favourite modules in Yale-NUS was an environmental policymaking course that demonstrated the interaction between black letter law and external forces. I learned about various policy frameworks and strategies that environmental advocates use to create a window of opportunity that then creates meaningful legal change.

For my capstone project, I critically examined the necessity of a “fake news” law in Singapore and considered how the law should be drafted to ensure that it is both constitutionally compatible and politically justifiable. In doing so, I explored several philosophical theories that promote the free exchange of ideas, and how the benefits of free speech could be balanced with the harm that “fake news” inflicts on governments, businesses and individuals.

The DDP has also given me ample space to explore my personal interests. In my first year, I attended a Yale University summer programme in the Czech Republic, where I learned about Eastern European literature and filmmaking and even got to attend a film festival. I am also particularly interested in ancient Chinese history and Victorian novels, areas which I explored further in Yale-NUS.

After graduation, I relocated to London to pursue an England and Wales qualification with Allen & Overy LLP.

Daniel Ng (Class of 2019)

The DDP at Yale-NUS was instrumental in helping me grow both personally and professionally. It provided me opportunities to interrogate the why behind the what I was doing. Placed in a community of passionate individuals hoping to make our communities and the world a slightly better place, I was fortunate to be able to contribute to causes larger than myself through youth mentorship and the pro-bono criminal justice education programme. I hope to continue to be involved in such community-focused work in legal practice.

One of the most valuable takeaways from the programme is learning how to learn. Law is rarely static and lawyers must constantly learn and adapt. I saw first-hand how this training benefitted me in my law internships when I was assigned difficult tasks that I had not encountered previously. Currently, I am running JustShip, a start-up in international shipping, while preparing for Part B of the bar exams. I look forward to bringing my experiences in liberal arts, advocacy, and business into my training at Clifford Chance soon.

Jamie Lee (Class of 2020)

The DDP was the natural choice for me because I could ground my insatiable curiosity for a myriad of interests with practical legal reasoning. Not one to back down from a challenge, I set out to become the first Environmental Studies major in the DDP. Indulging in a smorgasbord of classes in both institutions enabled me to draw connections between disparate areas of study, like investment arbitration and global decarbonisation. I worked closely with eminent professors at home and abroad to grow as a scholar and advocate for climate justice. Most unforgettably, my closest friends are peers from Yale-NUS College and NUS Law. These two close-knit communities taught me to embrace diverse perspectives and ideas for change.

Five years passed in a heartbeat, and I look back on my personal and intellectual growth with great fondness. I hope to practise as a disputes lawyer, and thereafter embark on the one-year Masters in Environmental Management (MEM) at Yale School of the Environment. The DDP has put me in good stead to promote renewable energy and other environmentally sustainable industries in the ASEAN region.

Chong Ren Jie (Class of 2020)

I cannot think of a programme that is better suited for my academic interests than the DDP – this statement is in no way hyperbolic. I started college knowing that I wanted to deeply explore both law and philosophy, and the DDP has provided me with the chance to do so. Law and philosophy are both subjects that contend with the ambiguity of our natural language in expressing concepts, but they deal with this constraint in vastly different ways. It is only by gaining both perspectives that I could appreciate their individual merits, and explore niche interconnections between the two subjects.

Because the DDP has afforded me such perspectives, I am able to tread new areas of inquiry that go beyond traditional jurisprudence and orthodox philosophy of law. More practically, both disciplines have made me a sharper thinker: law has trained me in analogical reasoning and in distinguishing facts granularly, while philosophy has taught me how to deeply interrogate first principles. I am confident that these tools will aid me in legal practice. I am currently working as a Deputy Public Prosecutor while studying for the bar examinations, and I will be starting as a Justices’ Law Clerk in January 2021.

The featured alumni wrote about their personal experiences in their personal capacities. The opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the views of their respective employer organisations.

Yale-NUS College, Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE)

E-mail: [email protected]

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