LawLink January 2014
Dean's Diary- January 2014
Dear Members of the NUS Law Community,
Curriculum ReviewThe review of our curriculum concludes a multi-year process led by a committee that I co-chaired with Vice Dean for Academic Affairs Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87. The need for a review was clear: the past decade has seen a transformation in Singapore's legal landscape; we are no longer the only law school in Singapore; and our students no longer work in only a handful of firms. In addition, our alumni are increasingly interested in remaining engaged with the life of the law school.
We had very helpful feedback on a discussion paper circulated in late 2012, including thoughtful comments from faculty, current and past students, and other stakeholders such as our Advisory Council. In addition, the Law Club conducted a survey that obtained quantitative and qualitative responses from more than a hundred current students.
Our guiding principle was that NUS Law already has a strong curriculum and produces high quality graduates. Changes to the curriculum should only be made if they will improve on what we already have.
Nevertheless, we saw the need for the first semester of law school to be a transformative experience, qualitatively different from junior college. The first weeks and months at university should encourage students to explore and find a passion for the law, rather than simply focusing on grades. Among other things, a new approach to assessment will encourage students to explore law as a calling rather than just as a subject. We have therefore recommended that the first semester of year one be graded on a pass/fail basis.
Another significant change is that our increasingly global students need greater exposure to civil law, particularly as it has developed in Asia. A new “Singapore Law in Context” module will introduce students to the Singapore legal system and its regional counterparts. In second year, they will take the new module “Legal Systems of Asia”. In addition, students will be required to choose at least one module from a basket or “cluster” of advanced civil law subjects.
A third set of changes will give students more opportunities to gain practical experience, including through participation in legal clinics and other modules that focus on experiential learning. This will complement the new pro bono scheme that will require all students to participate in a minimum number of pro bono activities, while also creating opportunities for them to develop their own pro bono projects. A related change is a new approach to teaching professional ethics, which will integrate additional opportunities to learn and reflect on issues of legal ethics.
These and other reforms will be implemented progressively beginning with the next intake of students in August 2014.
New Research CentresIn addition to teaching our undergraduate and graduate students, a second major function of NUS Law is research. With additional resources provided by the Ministry of Law and some key donors, we are now undertaking the most ambitious research initiative in NUS Law’s history.
As you may recall, we launched the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, headed by Andrew Harding and Wang Jiangyu in 2012. Part of our strategy to position NUS Law as Asia’s Global Law School, the Centre’s aim is nothing less than moving the focus of Asian legal studies as a discipline from Europe and North America to Singapore. This strategy complements our role as the Secretariat of both the Asian Law Institute (ASLI) and the Asian Society of International Law.
In 2013, we established the new Centre for Law & Business, led by Tan Cheng Han SC ’87 and Lan Luh Luh ’89. CLB builds on NUS Law’s extensive experience in commercial law teaching and research, bringing together faculty members whose interests cover a wide spectrum of commercial law subjects, colleagues from the NUS Business School and other faculties, and distinguished visitors from around the world. Its work will be of scholarly value to academics, but also policy relevance to the wider business community
In the coming months, we will be launching the Centre for Banking & Finance Law, headed by Dora Neo and Alexander Loke ’90. The centre will engage local and international banks, lawyers, regulators, and academics in a regular exchange of ideas and knowledge so as to contribute towards the development of law and regulation in this area, as well as to promote a robust and stable financial sector in Singapore, the region, and globally.
Dora Neo Alexander Loke
Lee Kuan Yew the LawyerThe idea that Singapore could be the rule of law capital of Asia owes a lot to the vision of its founding Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew (Hon LL.D. ’13).
Commencement ceremonies are always memorable occasions but there was even greater interest in the graduating class of 2013. In part this was because of the media attention given to Darren Tan ’13, who had spent more than ten years in jail prior to enrolling at NUS Law; after a long journey, he has now graduated and has a training contract with TSMP. There were many other good news stories among our students, including others who triumphed over adversity or spent time and energy helping those less fortunate than themselves.
But last year’s graduation season was also of note because we granted an honorary doctor of laws degree to Lee Kuan Yew. I was asked to serve as the public orator, delivering a citation in his honour. As I observed on the day, it was difficult to think of what to say that had not already been said. Books have been written — and many more will be — about Mr Lee as a leader, as a politician, and as a strategic thinker. So I decided to speak about him as a lawyer and the role that law played in his vision for Singapore.
From left to right: Chairman of NUS Board of Trustees, Mr Wong Ngit Liong, Mr
Lee Kuan Yew, President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat,
and NUS President Prof Tan Chorh Chuan
Global Law Deans’ ForumAnother major event in 2013 was the first ever Global Law Deans’ Forum, convened in partnership with the International Association of Law Schools.
More than 80 law school deans and chairs of law faculties from 31 countries attended the event, which followed a series of eight regional forums over the past two years. A key achievement was the adoption of the “Singapore Declaration on Global Standards and Outcomes of a Legal Education”, providing a foundation for future discussions of legal education and a common vocabulary as to our aspirations for our institutions and our students.
Among other things, the Declaration affirms that law graduates around the world need more than just the knowledge and skills to practice law. They must also know and understand the need to act in accordance with the professional ethics of the jurisdiction and the fundamental principles of justice and the rule of law.
The first ever Global Law Deans’ Forum was co-hosted by NUS Law and the
International Association of Law Schools (IALS)
New FacesIn order to sustain this level of activity and build new peaks of excellence at NUS Law, we have embarked on an ambitious process of expansion. In the past year in particular our faculty has been strengthened by key hires at all levels.
We were delighted to welcome back to NUS Law Professor Tan Lee Meng ’72. A graduate of NUS Law and the University of London, Prof Tan first joined the faculty in 1972, going on to serve as Dean from 1987 to 1992 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1992 to 1997. He was appointed as Judicial Commissioner in February 1997 and then as a Judge of the Supreme Court in August of the same year. In 2013, he retired from the bench after 16 years in public service, but has thrown himself back into research, teaching, and engaging with students. It is wonderful to have him back on campus.
As mentioned in last year’s letter, Professor Michael Bridge joined us from the London School of Economics in January 2013. One of the top private commercial lawyers in the world, Prof Bridge is the author of several leading treatises with Oxford University Press and is the general editor of Benjamin’s Sale of Goods. In 2013, Prof Bridge was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy — an exceptionally prestigious honour awarded to outstanding scholars who have achieved distinction in the humanities and social sciences.
Another senior hire from Britain is Professor James Penner. Previously the Head of Department and Professor of Property Law at University College London, Prof Penner’s doctoral thesis at Oxford formed the basis of his prize-winning The Idea of Property in Law (Oxford University Press, 1997). He writes on trusts law, the law and philosophy of property, and generally in the philosophy of law. Recent publications include The Law of Trusts (8th edn, Oxford University Press, 2012) and McCoubrey and White’s Textbook on Jurisprudence (5th edn, Oxford University Press, 2012).
We also appointed two new assistant professors. Assistant Professor Nicole Roughan graduated first in her class with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland; she also has LL.M. degrees from Victoria University of Wellington and Yale, as well as a JSD from Yale. She has written on constitutional theory and indigenous law, international law, and jurisprudence. Her main research focus has been on developing a pluralist jurisprudence. It is her long-term research agenda to work towards a fully developed “pluralist” theory of law.
Assistant Professor Christian Hofmann (LL.M. ’13) began his legal education at the University of Freiburg. His postgraduate degrees include a doctorate (Dr. iur.) from Martin Luther University Halle/Wittenberg and a professorial qualification (Habilitation) from Humboldt-University Berlin. He also holds an LL.M. in Global Business Law from NYU and an LL.M. in Corporate and Financial Services Law from NUS Law. Prior to joining NUS Law, he was an Associate Professor at the Private University in the Principality of Liechtenstein (UFL). His research interests include Banking and Financial Markets Law, Corporate Law, European Union Law, and Comparative Law.
Sheila Hayre joined us as a Senior Lecturer. She obtained her J.D. from Yale Law School and has previously worked as a legal aid attorney at New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc. She continues to serve on the Grievance Panel for the New Britain and Hartford Judicial Districts. Ms Hayre is helping us to expand and develop our pro bono and clinical programmes.
Another faculty member will join us after she completes her doctorate at the University of Cambridge. Rachel Leow ’11 finished her studies at NUS Law and was called to the Singapore Bar before earning a prize-winning LL.M. at Cambridge, where she is now reading for her Ph.D. on an NUS-Overseas Graduate Scholarship. Ms Leow’s research interests lie broadly in private law, with a particular focus on equity and trusts, property law, unjust enrichment, and charity law.
In addition to these fulltime hires, former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ’61 became NUS Law’s first Distinguished Fellow. Mr Chan was a member of the inaugural batch of law students admitted in 1957 to what was then the University of Malaya. After graduation he practised as a lawyer for a number of years in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before being appointed the first Judicial Commissioner of Singapore in 1986. Two years later, he became a Judge of the Supreme Court of Singapore. In 1992, he was appointed the Attorney-General of Singapore, a position he relinquished in 2006 when he was sworn in as the third Chief Justice of Singapore. He retired in 2012, after having spent 26 years in legal service and is now sharing some of his expertise and experience with the next generation of lawyers.
Research ExcellenceThese new and returning colleagues join a faculty that continues to produce outstanding scholarship across the spectrum of legal research.
In addition to dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as scores of conference papers, the following new books appeared in 2013: Principles of Civil Procedure by Jeffrey Pinsler SC (Academy Publishing); Criminal Law for the 21st Century: A Model Code for Singapore by Chan Wing Cheong, Stanley Yeo ’76, and Michael Hor ’84 (Academy Publishing); The Law of Personal Property by Michael Bridge (Sweet & Maxwell, written with Louise Gullifer, Gerard McMeel, and Sarah Worthington); Legal Tenor: Voices from Singapore’s Legal History (1930-1959) by Eleanor Wong ’85 (Academy Publishing); Nicole Roughan’s Authorities: Conflict, Cooperation and Transnational Legal Theory (Oxford University Press); and Mergers and Acquisitions in Singapore: Law and Practice by Wan Wai Yee ’96 and Umakanth Varottil (Ph.D. ’10) (LexisNexis).
We also welcomed in 2013 the second edition of Leong Wai Kum’s Elements of Family Law in Singapore (LexisNexis), the second edition of Swati Jhaveri’s Hong Kong Administrative Law (LexisNexis, co-authored with Michael Ramsden and Anne Scully-Hill), the third editions of Michael Bridge’s International Sale of Goods (Oxford University Press) and An Introduction to Singapore’s Constitution by Kevin Tan ’86 (Talisman), the fourth edition of Jeffrey Pinsler SC’s Evidence and the Litigation Process (LexisNexis), and the fifth edition of Andrew Simester’s Simester and Sullivan’s Criminal Law: Theory and Doctrine (Hart, co-authored with Graham Virgo, John Spencer, and Robert Sullivan).
Our faculty also edited major works on a variety of topics of national and regional significance. These include: Arun Thiruvengadam’s Comparative Constitutionalism in South Asia (Oxford University Press, edited with Sunil Khilnani and Vikram Raghavan); Genetic Privacy: An Evaluation of the Ethical and Legal Landscape edited by Terry Kaan ’81 and Calvin Wai-Loon Ho ’98 (Imperial College Press); and James Penner’s Philosophical Foundations of Property Law (Oxford University Press, edited with Henry Smith).
ImpactIn addition to producing scholarship that changes the way law is thought about, many colleagues also had a direct impact on how it is practised.
Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87, Debbie Ong ’89, and Goh Yihan ’06 all appeared as amici curiae before the Singapore Court of Appeal in 2013. They and other colleagues also had their work cited by Singapore’s courts, including Tracey Evans Chan ’97, Chan Wing Cheong, Leong Wai Kum, Jeffrey Pinsler SC, Stephen Girvin, Kevin Gray, Teo Keang Sood, Thio Li-ann, and Walter Woon ’81.
The UK Supreme Court referred to Andrew Simester’s research in a case concerning the offence of causing death while driving under the Road Traffic Act; his work was also cited by the Supreme Court of New Zealand on the use of force in defence of property and by the High Court of Australia on joint enterprise liability. The Australian High Court also cited Kevin Gray’s work on native title and property, as did the English High Court’s Chancery Division and the Hong Kong Court of First Instance. Malaysia’s Court of Appeal cited Andrew Harding’s work on Malaysia’s constitution and Chan Wing Cheong and Stanley Yeo ’76’s text on Singapore and Malaysia’s criminal law. Prof Yeo’s was also cited in the Supreme Court of Canada on the meaning of “duress”.
Our faculty were also consulted directly on many law reform projects during the calendar year 2013, ranging from the Penal Code (Chan Wing Cheong, Michael Hor ’84, and Stanley Yeo ’76) to international commercial mediation (Joel Lee) and my own work on data protection.
Faculty AchievementsOur faculty achieved significant milestones in many other areas.
At the Singapore Academy of Law’s 25th Anniversary Dinner, NUS Law colleagues featured prominently. Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87 and Goh Yihan ’06 were each presented the Singapore Law Merit Award by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon ’86. The award recognises individuals who have made invaluable contributions to the development and advancement of Singapore law. Debbie Ong ’89 and Eleanor Wong ’85 were also honoured, receiving the SAL Merit Award in recognition of their contributions to the promotion and advancement of the statutory functions and objectives of SAL.
In the 2013 National Day Awards, Associate Dean Goh Mia Yang ’92 was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze).
Among the University prizes won this year, Dan Puchniak received an NUS Annual Teaching Excellence Award. As this is his third ATEA, Assoc Prof Puchniak has been placed on the NUS Honour Roll as recognition of his sustained high performance in teaching. Lynette Chua ’03 earned a Law & Society Association Honourable Mention for Article Prize for her article “Pragmatic Resistance, Law, and Social Movements in Authoritarian States: The Case of Gay Collective Action in Singapore”. It was recently published in the leading journal on law and society studies. Yeo Hwee Ying ’80 contributed a chapter on Singapore to the Research Handbook on International Insurance Law and Regulation, which won the British Insurance Law Association (BILA) Book Prize.
Koh Kheng Lian ’61 attended the ceremony to receive the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, which recognised her “important and pioneering contributions to the development and evolution of environmental law in Singapore and in the whole ASEAN region.” The citation continued: “Her contributions have been particularly significant as regards both capacity building and scholarship in the field of ASEAN environmental law.” Em Prof Koh is the second Singaporean to be made a laureate after her classmate Tommy Koh ’61 won the prize in 1996 for his accomplishments as a United Nations negotiator.
Koh Kheng Lian with Mrs Helga Haub, daughter-in-law of Mrs Elizabeth Haub, at
the award presentation
Student AchievementsThe lifeblood of NUS Law is our students. We have rich traditions such as Orientation, Rag & Flag, the Law IV Musical, the Farewell Dinner, and Commencement. Above and beyond the normal rigours of law school studies, these events mark our calendar and shape the experience of our students.
You may be interested to know that our students once again enjoyed great success in mooting and other international competitions. Among other achievements, Kok Yee Keong ’14, Kristy Teo ’14, and Catherine Lim ’14 won the 5th International Moot Court Competition organised by Gujarat National Law University, India.
NUS Law took second position at the International Negotiation Competition 2013 hosted by Chapman Law School in California. The team was made up of Peh Zu Hao ’13 and Ang Tze Siong ’14.
In the 2013 Vis Moot, the NUS Law team beat over 290 law schools to win the Werner Melis Award for Best Respondent Memorial. Representing NUS Law were Chin Jun Qi ’13, Priya Gobal ’13, Kam Kai Qi ’13, Ashish Kamani ’13, and Cheryl Ng ’13.
The NUS Law team also reached the finals in the 2013 International Maritime Law Arbitration Moot Competition, comprising Ho Pey Yann ’13, Shiah Zi Han ’13, Yu Kanghao ’13, and Mubin Shah ’13. Pey Yann clinched the Best Speaker for the Finals award while Zi Han earned a special mention for being one of the top speakers in the General Rounds.
In debating, Xiao Hongyu ’14 and Kelvin Chong ’15 won the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championships organised by Beihang University in Beijing; both students were also among the list of top 10 speakers of the tournament with Kelvin named as the best speaker in the finals. In the United Asian Debating Championships, held in Manila. NUS Law finished first runners-up, represented by Hongyu, Kelvin, and Imran Rahim ’13. Imran was chosen as the Best Speaker of the tournament with Hongyu and Kelvin also in the top five.
Eighth and ninth from the left: NUS Law student Kelvin Chong and Xiao Hongyu
with the other prize winners at the awards ceremony held at the Park Plaza Hotel
Alumni Relations & DevelopmentOur alumni continued to make us proud, with many achievements worthy of recognition.
The year began with the news that N Sreenivasan ’85 was appointed Senior Counsel and Halimah Yacob ’78 (LL.M. ’01) made history as Singapore’s first female Speaker of Parliament. Later in the year, Tan Siong Thye ’79 and Lee Kim Shin ’85 were appointed judicial commissioners, joining NUS Law Advisory Council member Lionel Yee (recently appointed Solicitor-General, succeeding Koh Juat Jong ’88 who is retiring after 31 years of public service).
We also saw Selena Tan ’94 serve as the creative director of last year’s National Day Parade, in which Rani Singam ’94 led a particularly moving version of Majulah Singapura. Ivan Heng ’88 received the prestigious Cultural Medallion in recognition of his achievements in and commitment to the arts.
In addition to class reunions and alumni events in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and New Delhi, we also held our first Alumni Family Day — a wonderful opportunity to bring alumni and their families to our beautiful campus for a fun day out.
Alumni continued to give more of their time and resources to NUS Law. Many of the most meaningful initiatives we established in 2013 were made possible by support from alumni. These include the Class of 1983 Bursary, the Class of 1993 Bursary, the Class of 2013 Book Grant, the Tan Han Boon Bursary, and the KK Menon Scholarship.
Other alumni served in different ways, including the 89 alumni mentors who are currently participating in the second year of our NUS Law Alumni Mentorship Programme (LAMP). Alumni and other members of the legal community also enabled us to increase the number of internship positions available to our students by over 50 percent.
Looking ForwardI hope that you find these annual updates on NUS Law interesting. If you would like to know more, or if you think that there may be ways in which you could get involved in the life of the faculty, please do not hesitate to let me know.
Together with all my colleagues, please accept my best wishes to you and your loved ones for the calendar and lunar New Years. I hope that they bring you peace, happiness, and fulfilment.