Overcoming the Odds: Arjuna Segathesan’17

From being afraid of public speaking to representing the university at an international moot competition, Arjuna Segathesan’17 has spent his years at NUS Law overcoming his fears and helping others through pro bono work with compassion. He graduates from NUS Law with First Class Honours this year, and shares more about his experience and future plans in this interview.


Can you tell us why you chose to study law?

To be honest, I did not envision myself studying law until I was in junior college. A classmate persuaded me to accompany him to the NUS Law Open Day. I recall being extremely impressed with the law students and the Dean’s speech. That is when I started to seriously consider a career in law. Months later, I applied to NUS and was offered the Undergraduate (Merit) Scholarship to study law.

On hindsight, I suppose that law was a natural choice for me. My father works in the Singapore Police Force and my sister is a probation officer. As such, our family conversations are often about legal developments. My family was certainly not surprised when I told them of my desire to study law.

What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

I really did not expect law school to be so academically challenging. The learning curve is steep and it was a struggle at the beginning. At the end of my first year, I certainly did not imagine that I would graduate with first class honours. However, my professors were very supportive and I learnt that the key to doing well is to simply have confidence in oneself. It also helped that I made good friends who constantly supported me.

Another challenge for me was the public speaking component of law school. I have always had a fear of public speaking. Naturally, I found the mandatory mooting sessions in my first year to be extremely terrifying. I had the opportunity to revisit my fears this year as I was part of the team that represented NUS in the Herbert Smith Freehills Competition Law Moot. I was extremely pleased to receive an honourable mention oralist award in the competition. Without doubt, it was the generous encouragement of Associate Professors Burton Ong’99 and Eleanor Wong’85 that helped me to tame my fear of mooting and to become a more confident speaker.

Who is your role model, and why?

I would say that both my parents are my role models. They may seem ordinary to others. However, they are extremely resilient, hardworking and compassionate individuals who never fail to inspire me. Whenever I am faced with a difficult decision, I always ask myself how my parents would have decided it. Certainly, I would not be who I am today without the guidance and support of my parents.

Can you share with us highlights of your experiences in Pro Bono work?

I was privileged to volunteer at the Family Justice Courts and the Braddell Heights CC Legal Clinic. I also had the opportunity to intern at the Humanitarian Organization for Migration Economics (HOME). Doing pro bono work was undeniably a key highlight of law school. It allowed me to witness how law is actually practiced outside of the classroom. Importantly, it enabled me to realise that the compassion and support of lawyers can make a big difference in people’s lives.

My internship at HOME was particularly memorable. I had the opportunity to interview South Asian foreign workers who were victims of trafficking. Through these interviews, I was introduced to the world of deceptive recruitment practices and exploitation of migrant workers. Their stories affected me personally as most of the workers were around my age and I was truly glad to be of some assistance to them. (For more about Arjuna’s experience at HOME, read here.)

What’s next for you?

I will begin my Part B course next week and will be heading to Rajah & Tann for my practice training at the end of the year. A new chapter of my life is beginning and I am not certain what the future would bring. However, what I am sure of is that I will always deeply cherish my memories of studying in NUS Law and the friends that I have made here.