History of the Faculty


The Faculty of Law is part of the National University of Singapore (NUS), the oldest tertiary institution in Singapore. NUS traces its rich history to the founding of the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in 1905. The Medical School was renamed the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1912. In 1949, it merged with Raffles College (itself set up in 1929) to form the University of Malaya.

Dr LA Sheridan
Dean, 1956-1962

The roots of the Faculty of Law lie in the establishment of the Department of Law in the then University of Malaya in 1956. The first law students were admitted to the Bukit Timah campus of the University in 1957. In 1959, the Department attained Faculty status with Professor Lionel Astor (“Lee”) Sheridan serving as the founding Dean. The pioneer class of law students graduated in 1961, counting among its most illustrious members Professor Tommy Koh (Ambassador-at-Large and former Dean), former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong, former Dean Thio Su-Mien, and Emeritus Professor Koh Kheng Lian.

In the early 1960s, the governments of Singapore and Malaya announced their desire for the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur divisions of the University of Malaya to become autonomous national universities in their respective territories. Thus, on 1 January 1962, the University of Singapore was born. Singapore was admitted to the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963. The union lasted until 9 August 1965, when Singapore became an independent republic. Throughout this period and thereafter, the Faculty of Law continued to flourish as part of the University of Singapore. In 1980, the University of Singapore and Nanyang University (Nantah) were merged to form the National University of Singapore (NUS). With that, the Faculty of Law became part of the modern NUS, simultaneously moving to its new Kent Ridge campus.

A quarter century later, it was announced that the Bukit Timah campus would be returned to NUS. The Faculty of Law, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and several research institutes made the move from Kent Ridge back to the hallowed grounds of Bukit Timah, opening its doors there once again on 17 July 2006.

Milestones

1956

Arrival of Dr Lionel Astor Sheridan
Dr Lionel Astor Sheridan takes up his duties as the first Professor of Law and Head of the Law Department at the University of Malaya.


1957

Admission of first law students
The first law students are admitted to the Department of Law. Among them are former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ’61, former ambassador to the United Nations Tommy Koh ’61, Emeritus Professor Koh Kheng Lian ’61, and former Dean Thio Su Mien ’61.



 
Dr La Sheridan
Dr Lionel A Sheridan,
Dean 1956 - 1962

1959

Origins of the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies
The University of Malaya Law Review is published (the journal was later renamed the Malaya Law Review and subsequently, the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies, which continues to this day).

Lionel A Sheridan elected as first Dean

The Department of Law attains Faculty status and Professor Sheridan is elected as its first Dean.
 

 

1960

The Government of the Federation officially recognises the University of Malaya law degree as an initial qualification to enter the legal profession. The Asia Foundation generously endows the Constitutional Law Professorship. Professor Harry E Groves, former Dean of the Southern Texas University Law School, becomes the first Constitutional Law Professor.
 

Pioneer batch of law graduates.

1961

Professor Leslie C Green is appointed to the newly-created Chair of International Law, and Commercial Law is introduced as a principal subject.
The pioneer batch of 22 law students graduates; 8 of them subsequently join the Faculty as assistant lecturers or part-time teachers.
 

1962

University of Singapore formed
The University of Singapore is established following the reconstitution of the University of Malaya.
 
Dr BL Chua
Dr BL Chua
Dean, 1962-63
B L Chua appointed as Dean
Lee Sheridan leaves to take up the Chair of Comparative Law at Queen’s University in Belfast. Chua Boon Lan (B L Chua) succeeds Sheridan as Dean of the Faculty.
 
Prof Harry E Groves
Prof Harry E Groves
Dean, 1963-64

1963

Founding Dean Sheridan honoured
The University confers an honorary L.L.D. on founding Dean Lee Sheridan.

Harry E Groves appointed as Dean
Harry E Groves succeeds BL Chua as Dean. Groves secures a grant of US$300,000 from the Ford Foundation to purchase books for the Law Library, to institutionalise scholarships and to fund research projects and staff recruitment.
 
Prof Leslie C Green
Prof Leslie C Green
Dean, 1964-65
Leslie C Green takes over as Dean
On 16th September, Singapore joins the Federation of Malaysia. In November, Leslie C Green succeeds Harry Groves as Dean.
 
Prof JL Montrose
Prof J L Montrose
Dean, 1965-66

1965

Faculty names James Louis Montrose as Dean
On 9th August, Singapore becomes an independent republic. In September, Leslie Green leaves the Faculty and is succeeded by James Louis Montrose.
 
Prof GW Bartholomew
Prof GW Bartholomew
Dean, 1966-68

1966

Geoffrey W Bartholomew takes over as Dean
James Montrose completes his term as Dean and Ford Foundation Visiting Professor and is succeeded by Geoffrey W Bartholomew
 
 

1967

Ford Foundation Grant for Development established
The Ford Foundation grants US$450,000 to develop the Faculty by providing for visiting professors and teaching fellows, advanced training and teaching experience for local staff, and consultant services for the Law Library and its expansion.
 
Dr Thio Su Mien
Dr Thio Su Mien ’61
Dean, 1968-1971

1968

Dr Thio Su Mien ’61 becomes youngest appointed Dean
Dr Thio Su Mien ‘61, the Faculty’s first alumnus to join its teaching staff in 1962, is appointed Vice-Dean. At the close of Geoffrey Bartholomew’s term as Dean at the end of the year, Thio is elected Dean, making her the first woman, the first local graduate, and the youngest person ever to be Dean of the Faculty.
 

1969

Birth of Singapore Law Review
The student journal, Me Judice, is transformed into the Singapore Law Review (SLR). The SLR continues to this day as a student-run publication.


1970

Inauguration of Braddell Memorial Lecture Series
The Faculty inaugurates a new public lecture series, the Braddell Memorial Lecture. The Lecture was named after the late Dato’ Sir Roland Braddell, the scion of Singapore’s most illustrious legal family.
 
Prof Tommy Koh
Prof Tommy Koh ’61
Dean, 1971-1974

1971

Tommy Koh ’61 takes over as Dean
Thio Su Mien leaves for private practice and is succeeded as Dean by her classmate, Tommy Koh ’61. Koh holds the distinction of being the first graduate to have attained First Class Honours from the Faculty. At the time of his appointment, Koh had just returned from his stint as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
 
 

1973

Faculty participates in Jessup Moot
The Faculty sends its first team to the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Competition in the United States, which is held annually in Washington DC. The Jessup Moot is now regarded as the most prestigious international mooting competition in the world. To date, the NUS Faculty of Law holds the record as the law school with the most number of victories at the moot – four in total.
 
Prof S Jayakumar
Prof S Jayakumar ’63
Dean, 1974-1980

1974

S Jayakumar ’63 succeeds Tommy Koh as Dean
Jayakumar has been serving the university as a law lecturer from 1964 to 1971. After three years of serving as a diplomat, Jayakumar returns to the Faculty as Dean
 
Prof Tan Sook Yee
Prof Tan Sook Yee
Dean, 1980-1987

1980

Faculty appoints Tan Sook Yee as Dean
Jayakumar leaves the Faculty to enter politics. He is succeeded by Tan Sook Yee as Dean. Tan Sook Yee has been teaching Property Law at the Faculty since 1964.
 
Formation of National University of Singapore
With the merger of the University of Singapore and Nanyang University, the Faculty becomes part of the modern National University of Singapore.
 

1982

First Philip C Jessup win
Represented by V K Rajah ’82, Davinder Singh ’82, Jimmy Yim ’82 and Steven Chong ’82, the Faculty wins the Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Competition for the first time.
 
 

1985

Second win for NUS Law team in Jessup Competition
NUS Law wins the Jessup Competition for the second time, represented by Anjali Iyer ’85, Lim Kien Thye ’85, Mohan Pillay ’85, Prithipal Singh ’85 and Eleanor Wong ’85.
 
Justice Tan Lee Meng
Justice Tan Lee Meng ’72
Dean, 1987-1992

1987

Tan Lee Meng ’72 appointed Dean
Tan Lee Meng ’72 succeeds Tan Sook Yee as Dean. As Dean, Tan recruited many young faculty who later became the core of NUS Law.
 
 

1991

Creation of the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies
The Malaya Law Review is renamed the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies.
 
Assoc Prof Chin Tet Yung
Assoc Prof Chin Tet Yung
Dean, 1992-2001

1992

Chin Tet Yung takes over as Dean
Tan Lee Meng is succeeded by Chin Tet Yung as Dean. Tan is appointed the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and later a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore. (In 2013 he returns to NUS Law after 16 years in Public Service.)
 
 

1993

NUS Law establishes David Marshall Professorship
The David Marshall Professorship is established in honour of David Marshall, pre-eminent criminal lawyer and also Singapore’s first Chief Minister and subsequent Ambassador to France. Professor Francis Reynolds of Oxford becomes the first David Marshall Professor.


1994

NUS Law wins the Jessup Competition a third time
Represented by Ang Cheng Hock ’94, Jayanthi Sadanandan ’94, Tan Ken Hwee ’94, Michael Ewing-Chow ’94, and Christopher Daniel ’94, NUS Law wins the Jessup Competition for the third time.


Development of exchange programmes
NUS Law begins to develop student exchange programmes with leading law schools in Canada, Australia, England, and the United States.
 
APCEL

1996

Establishment of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law
The Asia-Pacific Centre for Environmental Law (APCEL) is established by NUS Law together with the Commission on Environmental Law (CEL) of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
 
C J Koh Professorship
NUS Law receives a $2 million donation from retired lawyer and philanthropist, C J Koh, to set up the C J Koh Professorship in Law. The late Mr Koh’s additional bequests finance the renovation of the Law Library, now renamed the C J Koh Law Library.
 
 

1997

Singapore Journal of International and Comparative Law
NUS Law launches its second academic journal, the Singapore Journal of International and Comparative Law.


1998

Establishment of the Centre for Commercial Law Studies
The Centre for Commercial Law Studies builds on NUS Law’s extensive experience in commercial law teaching and research and involves a range of faculty whose interests cover a wide spectrum of commercial law subjects.
 
Prof Tan Cheng Han S.C.
Prof Tan Cheng Han S.C.
Dean, 2001-2011

2001

Tan Cheng Han ’87 becomes Dean
Tan Cheng Han ’87 succeeds Chin Tet Yung as Dean. Prof Tan teaches Contract Law and Company Law, and is today Chair of NUS Law’s Centre for Law & Business. His other appointments include being Chairman of the Singapore Media Literacy Council, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Move-On and Filming Orders
 
First law school to win the Jessup Competition four times
NUS Law becomes the first law school in the world to win the prestigious Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition four times. The Faculty is represented by Sangeeta Subbrahmanyam ’01, Chan Ho Ming ’01, Kabir Singh ’02, Davinia Aziz ’02 and Jason Chan ’02.
 



2002

Yong Shook Lin Professorship established
NUS Law receives a gift of $2 million from Chief Justice Yong Pung How LLD ’01 and Mrs Yong Wei Woo to establish the Yong Shook Lin Professorship in Intellectual Property Law.

First copy of LawLink
The first issue of LawLink – NUS Law’s alumni magazine – is produced.

Launch of Legal Writing Programme
The Faculty launches a comprehensive Legal Writing Programme – a first in Asia - to equip law students with analytical, research, writing and communication skills.

Debut in Willem C Vis Moot
In its debut effort, NUS Law is the first Asian law school to win the Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot in Vienna.
 
 

2003

Specialist Masters programmes
The Faculty launches three specialist Masters (L.L.M.) programmes in corporate and financial services law; international and comparative law; and intellectual property and technology law.

Professorship in Maritime Law
The Faculty receives a gift of $4 million from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore to endow a Professorship in Maritime Law.

Asian Law Institute launched
The Faculty establishes the Asian Law Institute (ASLI) with nine other leading law schools in Asia. The ASLI Secretariat is housed at the Faculty.
The Faculty launches a specialist Masters (L.L.M.) programme in Chinese Law with its ASLI partners, Peking University and the East China University of Politics and Law.


2004

Singapore Year Book of International Law
The Singapore Year Book of International Law succeeds the Singapore Journal of International & Comparative Law, thereby completing a process which began with the first scholarly documentation of Singapore's international law practice in 1977.

Partnership with East China University of Politics and Law
The Faculty partners one of China 's top law schools, the East China University of Politics and Law (ECUPL), to offer a specialist Masters of Law (L.L.M.) degree in International Business Law in Shanghai from July 2005.

Champions of Asia Cup International Law Moot Court Competition
NUS Faculty of Law wins the Asia Cup International Law Moot Court Competition

International Humanitarian Law Moot victory
The NUS Law team, sponsored by the Singapore Red Cross, emerges as Champions in the 2nd International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Moot Competition held in Hong Kong.
 







2005

Double degree programmes
NUS Law launches two double honours degree programmes with the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and NUS Business School consecutively: Economics and Law, Business Administration and Law.

Space law victory
NUS Law wins the Asia Pacific Regional of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Competition.

Return to Bukit Timah Campus
It is announced that the Bukit Timah Campus will be returned to NUS. NUS Law makes its historic move home to Bukit Timah, where it all began, the following year.
 
 

2006

Oxford IP Moot victory
NUS Law participates in the Oxford International Intellectual Property Mooting Competition for the first time and beats leading universities to win it.


2007

Celebrating 50 years of Legal Education in Singapore
From modest beginnings, NUS Law is now recognised as Asia’s Global Law School. A series of events are held to commemorate this milestone, culminating in the 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner.

Partnership with NYU
NUS Law partners with New York University School of Law to launch an LL.B.-LL.M. concurrent degree programme, enabling NUS Law undergraduates to complete their degree and earn a Master of Laws degree from NYU in four years. A similar programme enables students to earn an LL.B. from NUS Law and a J.D. from NYU in five years.
NUS Law and NYU also launch a dual Master of Laws programme - NYU@NUS - where students are based in Singapore and earn an LL.M. from NUS (with or without specialization), and an LL.M. in Global Business Law from NYU in one year.


2008

Center for Transnational Legal Studies created
NUS Law is a founding member of the Center for Transnational Legal Studies (CTLS), a London-based joint venture with premier law schools from around the world.

Law of Obligations
NUS Law is the first law school in Asia to host the prestigious biennial conference on the Law of Obligations (“Obligations IV”).
 



 

Assoc Prof Chan Wing Cheong
becomes the inaugural
Amaladass Fellow

2009

Victory in the Copenhagen Competition: Protocol on Climate Change
The NUS Law team's submission is presented to the Danish Prime Minister and other key players involved in the negotiations for the Copenhagen Protocol.

Inaugural Asian Law Deans Forum
NUS Law hosts the first Asian Law Deans Forum on Legal Education. Supported by the Temasek Foundation, it brings together 45 deans and leaders of law schools across the region

Amaladass Fellowship
NUS Law receives a gift of S$1 million from an anonymous donor to establish the Amaladass Fellowship in memory of the late legal practitioner Mr M Amaladass. Associate Professor Chan Wing Cheong is appointed the inaugural Amaladass Fellow.
 

Prof Tan Yock Lin
is appointed as the inaugural
Geoffrey Bartholomew Professor.



Professor Walter Woon ’81
is appointed as
David Marshall Professor.
 

2010

Clinical Legal Education Programme launched
NUS Law creates Singapore’s first Clinical Legal Education Programme to promote hands-on learning and inculcate pro bono spirit in law students.

Appointment of the Inaugural Geoffrey Bartholomew Professor
NUS Law launches the Geoffrey Bartholomew Professorship in honour of former Dean Professor Geoffrey Bartholomew. Professor Tan Yock Lin is appointed the inaugural Geoffrey Bartholomew Professor.

Former AG Prof Walter Woon ’81 Appointed as David Marshall Professor
Former Attorney-General Professor Walter Woon ’81 is appointed as the David Marshall Professor.

Association of Transnational Law Schools (ATLAS)
NUS Law is invited to join ATLAS, a leading consortium of law schools focusing on doctoral programmes.

Ella Cheong Intellectual Property Scholarship & Student Loan Fund
NUS Law receives a $1 million gift from lawyer Ms Ella Cheong to support awards in Intellectual Property law and provide financial assistance through bursary awards and student loans.
 

Class of 1961 celebrates 50th Anniversary

2011

Partnership with Boston University
NUS Law partners with Boston University (BU) to allow selected NUS law students to pursue an LL.M. at BU during their fourth year of undergraduate studies.

Partnership with ICJ and World Bank
NUS Law partners with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and World Bank to create fellowships for graduates to work in The Hague and Washington, DC.

Pioneer class celebrates 50th anniversary
NUS Law’s pioneer class celebrates the 50th anniversary of their graduation with the establishment of the Lionel A Sheridan Professorship in honour of the Faculty’s founding dean.

The Asian Journal of International Law is launched
The journal of the Asian Society of International Law is produced by NUS Law, with Profs Simon Chesterman and Simon Tay as two of the three founding editors.

Joel Lee wins Outstanding Educator Award
This is the highest honour awarded by NUS for teaching excellence.

Remembering Madam Kwa Geok Choo
NUS Law launches a series of initiatives to recognise Madam Kwa, including a professorship in property law, a bursary, a scholarship, and the Kwa Geok Choo Distinguished Visitors Programme
 

Prof Simon Chesterman
Dean, 2012-present



Prof Roger Fisher,
a pioneer of modern
negotiation practice
and teaching.

2012

Simon Chesterman takes over as Dean
Prof Simon Chesterman is appointed Dean. He joined NUS Law from NYU in 2007, becoming Vice Dean of Graduate Studies in 2010, overseeing all of the graduate programmes at NUS Law, including the Master of Laws and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

University Scholars Programme (USP)
NUS Law joins as USP’s 7th Partner, offering selected students a deeper interdisciplinary dimension to their classroom and curricular experiences.

Centre for Asian Legal Studies created
The Centre is the first of its kind to be established in Asia, building on NUS Law’s collaborations with other law schools around the region as the Secretariat of the Asian Law Institute (ASLI).

Singapore International Arbitration Academy launched
NUS Law and the Centre for International Law stage the inaugural Singapore International Arbitration Academy.

Roger Fisher Prize in Negotiation established
The new prize honours Professor Roger Fisher, one of the pioneers of modern negotiation practice and teaching.

Wee Chong Jin Scholarships in Law
The Wee Chong Jin Scholarships in Law will support two scholars a year, focusing on those students who are active in community or charity work, and display a spirit of sportsmanship and collegiality.

Mooting successes
NUS Law students win the International Negotiation Competition in Belfast, the inaugural International Banking and Investment Law (IBAIL) Moot Court Competition in Jaipur and the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championships in Jakarta.

Expanding Pro Bono
NUS Law establishes a Pro Bono Office to oversee the growing number of student pro bono activities and to look into the implementation of a more comprehensive programme.

Mentoring the future
The Law Alumni Mentor Programme (LAMP) is launched, linking first and second year students with recent alumni to provide insights and guidance to the practice of law.

A new Advisory Council
Former Dean, Professor S Jayakumar ’63, chairs a new Advisory Council to provide counsel and support to the decanal team, as well as acting as a liaison between the Law School and the legal profession in Singapore and internationally.
 

Emeritus Professor Peter Ellinger.



Professor Saw Swee Hock



Mr Lee Kuan Yew and
NUS Chancellor President Tony Tan,
together with NUS President Tan Chorh Chuan.



Dean Simon Chesterman
addresses the gathering
of over 80 law school leaders
at the Global Deans Forum.

2013

Centre for Law and Business launched
The Centre for Law and Business seeks to enhance and promote research and educational opportunities for faculty, students, legal practitioners and business executives who share a common interest in the fields of Law, Business and Economics.

Peter Ellinger Visiting Professorship
NUS Law establishes the Peter Ellinger Visiting Professorship to honour Emeritus Professor Peter Ellinger’s immense contribution to the development of legal education in Singapore.

The Riady Scholarship
NUS Law partners with the Riady family to create scholarships for outstanding Indonesians looking to further their law graduate studies at NUS Law.

H L Wee Scholarship & H L Wee Mooting Fund
The Wee family pledges an endowed gift to NUS Law in honour of the late Harry L Wee to create a scholarship and funds to support NUS Law’s mooting teams participating in international competitions.

Saw Swee Hock Centennial Professorship in Law
The Saw Swee Hock Centennial Professorship in Law is created through a donation from Prof Saw Swee Hock. It will be used to appoint and support a strategic hire to raise education and research in NUS Law to greater heights.

Honorary Degree for Lee Kuan Yew
NUS awards an honorary doctor of laws degrees to Singapore’s founding Prime Minister. Dean Chesterman serves as the public orator, delivering a citation in Mr Lee’s honour.

NUS Law hosts inaugural Global Deans Forum
Organised by NUS Law and the International Association of Law Schools, the Forum attracts more than 80 law school leaders who adopt the “Singapore Declaration on Global Standards and Outcomes of a Legal Education”.

Elizabeth Haub Prize
Koh Kheng Lian ’61 receives the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, in recognition of her important and pioneering contributions to its development and evolution.

Former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ’61 joins NUS Law
Mr Chan becomes NUS Law’s first Distinguished Fellow. He was a member of the inaugural batch of law students admitted in 1957 to what was then the University of Malaya.

Recognition by the profession
At the Singapore Academy of Law’s 25th Anniversary Dinner, Profs Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87 and Goh Yihan ’06 receive the Singapore Law Merit Award. Profs Debbie Ong ’89 and Eleanor Wong ’85 are presented the SAL Merit Award.

National Day honours
Associate Dean Goh Mia Yang ’92 is awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze). This year’s ceremony features Selena Tan ’94 as the creative director.

Sheridan Fellowships launched
Named after NUS Law’s founding Dean, Professor Lionel (“Lee”) Sheridan, the initiative is aimed at graduates with experience or expertise in Singapore Law who have an interest in pursuing a career in academia.
 
 

2014

Curriculum Review implemented
The review of the curriculum concludes a multi-year process led by Dean Chesterman and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Prof Ng-Loy Wee Loon. Changes from August 2014 include a reduced focus on grades, greater exposure to civil law, and more opportunities for experiential learning.
 

 

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