Friday, 17 March 2017

PM Lee opens SMU's School of Law building and Kwa Geok Choo Law Library

School lawyers of tomorrow in many fields: PM Lee
Encourage more cross-disciplinary learning to keep up with changing law practice, he says
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 16 Mar 2017

Singapore's law schools need to produce lawyers who are prepared for the demands of a new working environment marked by disruption and new technologies, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Speaking at the official opening of the Singapore Management University's (SMU) new law school building, Mr Lee said the way law is being practised will change in the future, and more cross-disciplinary learning should be encouraged.

He said the Government will be supporting the bigger law firms to venture into new areas of legal practice while helping the smaller ones raise their productivity and deliver better services to clients.

Mr Lee said the SMU School of Law, Singapore's second law school, was set up in 2007 not just to increase the number of law graduates. "We wanted a law school that would provide a rigorous legal education, coupled with exposure to other disciplines, such as business, economics, accountancy, social sciences or information systems."

He added: "We hoped that the graduates will be more versatile, able to apply their knowledge of the law in many different fields, and to contribute to our economy."

He was speaking to some 800 guests at the school's function hall, where future convocation and commencement ceremonies can now be held in-house for up to 1,400 people.

Mr Lee later toured the new 23,000 sq m School of Law building, located at the junction of Armenian Street and Stamford Road. The building was completed last December at a cost of $165 million.

Previously, law students and faculty members shared facilities across the road with SMU's accountancy and business schools.

The building features the Kwa Geok Choo Law Library. Madam Kwa, a lawyer, was one of the founders of Lee & Lee, one of Singapore's oldest firms. Madam Kwa, who died in 2010, is PM Lee's mother.

SMU chairman Ho Kwon Ping, in his speech, said the 2,200 sq m Kwa Geok Choo Law Library will be "at the heart of legal education and scholarship in Singapore".

He added: "Universities around the world are known for their iconic libraries, and this one is strategically placed at the high point of the site next to Stamford Green."

The three-storey library, which can seat more than 500 people, will focus on developing special collections in commercial law, dispute resolution and ASEAN law, among other areas.

Mr Ho also said students can now better prepare for law competitions with the new David Marshall Moot Court, which simulates a courtroom or arbitration chamber.

Said third-year law student Shriram Jayakumar, 24: "Now with the proper infrastructure in place, more students will be motivated to go further, knowing that the school is behind us."

Mr Jayakumar is part of a five-man team from SMU which will be representing Singapore at the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in Washington next month.

In addition, a new pro bono centre in the law school will allow legal clinics conducted by volunteer lawyers and assisted by SMU law undergraduates to be held weekly.

Previously, legal clinics were held fortnightly at the school's administration building.

SMU's law school dean Yeo Tiong Min said that the centre "sensitises law students to social justice issues" and allows them to "appreciate and integrate academic work with real-life experience".

PM Lee shares anecdotes about his mother
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 16 Mar 2017

Over her three decades as a conveyancing lawyer, the late Madam Kwa Geok Choo took a close interest in nurturing young lawyers, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

But while she had one eye on developing talent, she also recognised the importance of work-life balance, even in the early 1980s. She paid special attention to the female lawyers in her firm.

"In the early 1980s, when a 51/2-day work week was the norm, she declared a five-day week for all married female lawyers in her firm," he said, adding that Madam Kwa believed a happy family was a priority for all working mothers.

Mr Lee shared these anecdotes about his mother in his speech at the official opening of the Singapore Management University's new law school building, which features a dome-shaped law library named in her memory.

Mr Lee also said Madam Kwa kept a small personal library in her office that included a "dog-eared green hardcover book brought back from her student days in Cambridge".

The book, Law Property In Land by Henry Gibson Rivington, was her "constant companion", and on her desk was a copy of the Estate Duty Act for advising clients in structuring trusts and wills.

To keep abreast of new legislation at a time when statutes were not yet available online, she had a complete set of all the ordinances, which she physically updated.

"She flagged the relevant pages with bookmarks that she made herself, out of old Christmas cards, because these were ancient times, even before Post-its and sticky notes existed," Mr Lee said.

When amendments were passed, the Bills would arrive by mail and she would "literally cut and paste them into her set", he said.

Given her dedication to her profession, Mr Lee said his mother would have been proud to have a law library named after her. Adding that he first saw the completed law library on a walk at Fort Canning Park one night, he said: "The lighted dome glowed like a jewel in the dark - the architects have done a brilliant job."

Bust of David Marshall in 'the right place'
By K.C. Vijayan, Senior Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Mar 2017

He grew up seeing his father's picture appear regularly in The Straits Times and assumed it was the same for everyone else.

"I thought it was because you purchased the paper, you got your face sometimes on the front page," Dr Jonathan Marshall said yesterday. His father was Mr David Marshall, Singapore's first chief minister, from April 1955 to June 1956.

He had already grown accustomed to living with his father's constant presence. After all, in the family house stood a large bronze bust of his father. That bust is now on permanent loan from the family and is placed in the David Marshall Moot Court at the Singapore Management University's (SMU) School of Law, which was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Sunday was the 109th anniversary of Mr Marshall's birth. A top-notch criminal lawyer in his day, he served as a diplomat from 1978 to 1993. He died in 1995.

Dr Marshall said: "After he died, I would often look at the bust and think of him. And it was pleasant, it was a lovely thing to be able to reflect on my father while looking at an image of him which contained some of his fire and some of his strength and ruggedness.

"I don't think my father was particularly into images of himself. It is a special piece and I am very glad that it is available for others to see in an environment which he would be surprised and delighted."

The bust of the man once described by then Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong in 2008 as "undoubtedly the greatest criminal advocate that has ever graced the halls of justice in Singapore and Malaya", was sculpted by London-based Peter Lambda after the 1956 constitutional talks there that Mr Marshall attended, said his widow Jean.

"David never spoke about it and when I married him in 1961, it was already there, being commissioned in 1956," she added, noting that the bust was "rather big" for the private flat where they lived.

The works of Lambda, a famed Hungarian sculptor-writer, included busts of renowned thespian Laurence Olivier and founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

Mrs Marshall said that when she heard SMU's Moot Court was named after Mr Marshall, she thought the bust should go there.

She added: "It is a very powerful piece and gives a forceful impression of David, and has a good likeness, except the chin is not quite right. We are all very happy - it is going to the right place and embodies David's legacy cast in bronze."

SMU law school's feats, at home and abroad
By K.C. Vijayan, Senior Law Correspondent, The Straits Times, 16 Mar 2017

In the decade since it started in 2007 with the first batch of 116 students, SMU's law school has helped boost the legal profession and chalked up several feats, both here and abroad.

A precursor of dominance to come was seen in the law heavyweights that staffed the law school's first advisory board in 2007. It was chaired by former chief justice Yong Pung How.

The founding members included the present Chief Justice, Mr Sundaresh Menon, who was himself chairman of the board from 2011-2012, former Court of Appeal judge and attorney-general V. K. Rajah, present Court of Appeal judge Andrew Phang, former attorney-general Walter Woon, Senior Counsel Michael Hwang, Senior Counsel Davinder Singh and top corporate lawyer Lee Suet Fern.

The board's role was to advise on the School of Law's academic programmes, curriculum development and graduate employment, among other things.

Law dean Yeo Tiong Min pointed out that one indicator of its signal success was seen last December in the results of the Part B professional examination which all law graduates have to clear as part of requirements to practise in Singapore.

SMU graduates won nine out of 14 prizes awarded for the exam, in competition with graduates from all law schools qualified under the Legal Profession Act.

SMU law students also raised their profile abroad, having reached 37 international mooting championship finals and winning 18 of them since 2007.

The latest win occurred last week in Germany where an SMU law school quartet emerged champions in the 10th edition of the Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot and one of the team members was named Best Oralist of the competition.

The team won all eight matches en route to the championship - presided by International Court of Justice Judge Christopher Greenwood - defeating the likes of George Washington, NLU Delhi and Lomonosov university law schools. This year saw a turnout of more than 60 teams from around the world.

"Anecdotal evidence points to increasing appreciation by law firms of the soft skills of our law graduates. Some of our graduates compete head to head with the best for the top jobs in the industry," added Professor Yeo.

Prof Yeo attributed the school's continuing success to several factors, including the "strong collective effort by the professors and administrators, powerful support from industry stakeholders and donors as well as highly motivated students and a young but strongly supportive alumni".

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