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New Law Society president to help lawyers feel inspired again, prevent exodus of talent

New Law Society president to help lawyers feel inspired again, prevent exodus of talent

Source: Business Times
Article Date: 18 Nov 2021
Author: Michelle Quah

Adrian Tan, who has 30 years of legal experience under his belt, says his focus will be on building up the legal profession, in terms of keeping lawyers feeling engaged and fulfilled in their jobs, which he hopes will go towards retaining talent within the industry.

Well-known litigator and novelist, Adrian Tan, has been elected the new president of the Law Society of Singapore (Lawsoc), which represents lawyers and maintains standards of the profession here.

The 55-year-old partner and head of intellectual property and technology at TSMP Law Corporation - who is, of late, also gaining regard for his social-media commentaries on legal and other issues - will lead a 21-member Lawsoc council.

Among them are Lisa Sam of Lisa Sam & Company and Senior Counsel Jason Chan of Allen & Gledhill, who have been re-elected as vice-presidents, and Paul Tan of Cavenagh Law, who has been re-elected as treasurer.

Tan succeeds Senior Counsel Gregory Vijayendran, who is a commercial litigation partner at Rajah & Tann. Vijayendran, who has the distinction of being the longest-serving Lawsoc president, having served for 5 years, remains on the council as immediate past president.

He paid tribute to Tan, calling him "a worthy successor and the man of the moment".

"He is hands down the most qualified and experienced Bar leader to step up service into the Lawsoc president's role. His vim and vigour will help to vitalise a legal profession plagued by Covid-19," Vijayendran said.

Tan told The Business Times that he hopes to build on his predecessor's achievements: "Gregory Vijayendran has guided the Singapore legal industry through the pandemic. Many of us are thriving today, thanks to his leadership."

Tan, who has 30 years of legal experience under his belt, says his focus will be on building up the legal profession, in terms of keeping lawyers feeling engaged and fulfilled in their jobs, which he hopes will go towards retaining talent within the industry.

"I served on the Lawsoc council for the better part of a decade, as treasurer and vice-president. I saw first-hand the increased pressures placed on the legal profession by clients, the community and finally by Covid-19.

"Lawyers of all ages were questioning their place in society, and whether their work was futile, or would continue to provide meaning."

Tan - who was a partner at Drew & Napier and later, Morgan Lewis Stamford, before joining TSMP - said that many lawyers find the demands of working long hours, in isolation, emotionally draining.

"There is a danger that many will leave the profession, part of the Great Resignation that is sweeping the world. If that happens, Singapore will lose a vital resource. Trained, dedicated and experienced lawyers are valuable, especially to a nation that will be emerging from lockdown to cement its place as a leading global business hub.

"My main priority is to prevent an industry exodus. I see only one way to do so: lawyers need to feel motivated and inspired by their work, once again. You could say I want the Law Society to Make Lawyering Great Again."

He is also looking to improve lawyers and Lawsoc's engagement with the community.

Tan is well-known to the Generation X-ers for his bestselling novels in the 1980s - The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook - but he has managed to garner a new following in this social-media age.

He has been posting frequently on LinkedIn; his incisive commentaries, covering an array of legal and public-interest matters, ranging from vaccinations, to animal rights, to employment issues, have piqued much interest, both here and abroad.

Asked what he hopes to achieve with them, Tan said: "In the early days of the Internet, I remember a senior lawyer telling me 'lawyers should not blog'. I've come round to a different mindset. We ought to showcase the good work that Singapore lawyers do in society. And if social media could help, then we should not be afraid to use it.

"I took a year off from the Lawsoc council in order to carry out an experiment: can we tell the story of the Singapore lawyer? Can we explain to the public the role of law, and lawyers? In doing so, can we help the community appreciate the contribution of the Singapore lawyer?"

He began writing about legal issues on LinkedIn, but found himself extending beyond them before long - "the law touches every aspect of our lives".

He covered subjects such as seat belts for migrant workers, the sovereign movement, preserving historical buildings, national service, discrimination against cats and the unvaccinated, to name some - and he was encouraged by the response his posts received.

"Previously, the perception was that social media was the preserve of the young. The impression was that content had to be simplistic and frivolous. But, in this age of lockdowns, social media has matured into a platform on which serious and substantive legal education and debate can take place."

He said he has realised that the public is keen to understand and debate legal issues, which is healthy for both the profession and the nation.

"The Law Society will help lawyers find their voices, and build relationships with the community, through social media."

That's not all; possessing a second degree in computer science and having served as in-house counsel at CrimsonLogic, a Singapore government IT (information technology) company, Tan also has plans to bring this particular expertise of his to bear in his new position.

He explains, "Lawyers have a love-hate relationship with technology. It's because society primarily thinks of technology and artificial intelligence (AI) as substitutes for the human lawyer. That's misguided. A lawyer is not a legal computer - a lawyer is a human being who serves other human beings, often at times of crisis.

"No robot will be able to do what a human lawyer does. And only a human lawyer has the passion and the spirit to help another human."

Instead, he says, Lawsoc will provide the technological tools that lawyers will need to help them focus on what they love to do: using the law to minister to others.

It's a mission which Stefanie Yuen Thio, joint managing partner of Tan's current firm TSMP, believes Tan is well-suited for and will succeed in.

"A key challenge facing the legal industry is adapting to the lightning speed of digitalisation and changing our operating models in response to changes in the business environment. Adrian is passionate about helping lawyers and law firms be future-ready. As a practitioner with expertise in tech law, he will be able to structure systems to support lawyers - both the newly minted as well as those of us who have been in practice since the days when faxes were our fastest form of communication - digitalise and adapt to business practices of the future.

"Adrian also has a kind heart and is a patient listener, which will make him a compassionate leader of the Bar, caring about the concerns of all his stakeholders. (And he) cares deeply about a range of important issues. He serves as honorary legal counsel at the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped and is interested in the arts. It's good to have someone with so many interests, and the ability to engage in conversations with a broad spectrum of people, in the presidency."

Source: Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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