Solidarity and Resilience :
Forging A Future Together
The Singapore Academy of Law
Annual Report 2020/2021
Looking back on 2020/21: An interview with Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, President of the Singapore Academy of Law
The biggest takeaway from the pandemic for all of us in the profession will probably be the transformative potential of technology. When COVID hit, the legal profession was forced to embrace technology in ways that most of us had not previously contemplated. As the pandemic stretched on, we inevitably became more familiar and so also more comfortable with relying on technological solutions to help deliver justice. We have now widely adopted a hybrid manner of working, with some activities carried out in person but many others done remotely. This partnership between law and technology will, I think, prove to be an enduring feature of the legal industry.
The pandemic has also reminded us all of the vital importance of standing united in crisis. To that end, SAL rolled out support packages to members totalling $6.8 million since the start of the pandemic, including the latest tranche of $2.6 million in August 2021. These packages will subsidise our members as they seek resources for learning, research and professional development to meet the present and future challenges faced by the legal profession. At the same time, many of our members gave back to the community. Under the SGUnited Mediation Initiative, for instance, numerous mediators volunteered their time to conduct free mediations for disputes that would otherwise have had to be litigated in the courts at considerably greater cost.
Last year marked a watershed in our efforts to improve our justice system, with the introduction of the Rules of Court 2021 and the Courts (Civil and Criminal Justice) Reform Act 2021. These reforms will streamline litigation – from the simplification of court terminology to the roll-out of documents-only and asynchronous hearings, and the greater use of alternative dispute resolution. They reflect the growing consensus that it is neither necessary nor desirable for all disputes in court to involve in-person hearings or even the engagement of legal service providers. Instead, as we move towards the courts of the future, the resolution of less complex disputes in court will more closely resemble a self-help, on-demand service that can be easily accessed by litigants-in-person.
These changes to the administration of justice are accompanied by lasting changes to the way in which law is practiced. The Legal Industry Technology & Innovation Roadmap Report released by the Ministry of Law at the end of 2020 identified a number of global trends that are transforming the legal industry, including the rise of technology-related litigation, the demand for cybersecurity-related legal services, as well as the widening reach of non-traditional legal service providers. These trends point towards a decline in the numbers of lawyers who will solely have a background in law, and a rise in the ranks of cross-disciplinary lawyers and allied legal professionals. It is likely that this will also herald a change in the model of smaller law firms, which will increasingly have to take the form of specialist boutiques rather than general practices, especially as simpler litigation becomes more accessible to litigants-in-person. However, I also think that as long as we prepare ourselves for these changes, we will reap significant rewards in terms of delivering legal services on time, within budget, and more in line with clients’ expectations.
The starting point must be to emphasise that we are members of a learned and honourable profession committed to values such as public service and enabling access to justice, and bound by our shared commitment to the highest standards of conduct. Whatever else happens we should not lose sight of these core values. But we must build on this foundation by developing a core of legal professionals conversant in technology and willing and able to step up and lead the digitalisation of the profession. I think to a growing extent, all legal professionals of the future will need to have multiple skill sets. Lawyers should expect to have to leverage their legal knowledge to anticipate, analyse and solve problems in conjunction with their other skills. This will also require a conscious commitment on their part to augment their foundational store of knowledge, so that they can collaborate meaningfully with experts in other fields to meet the legal needs of their clients.
SAL has grown with the legal sector over the course of more than three decades since its founding. The legal profession will experience even more dramatic change in the coming decade, and SAL will have a critical role to play in supporting the profession through this transformative phase. To rise to this, SAL will itself have to undergo a transformation. But we have reason to be confident that SAL will be up to the challenge.
SAL’s early success rested heavily on the hard work of its team of dedicated staff led by Serene Wee. The passing of the baton to Rama Tiwari in February 2021 marks a new chapter, and his experience and familiarity with technology and digital transformation will help him set the tone and lead the team at SAL. For instance, over the past year, SAL has built its own capability to take over the coding and maintenance of LawNet. This will allow SAL to respond more rapidly to the needs of its users as it works towards developing the LawNet platform into a one-stop digital hub for legal content and SAL services.
I am confident that with the work of the dedicated team at SAL and the unstinting support of SAL members, SAL and the legal profession in Singapore will grow from strength to strength in 2022, just as they have in the year that has passed.
On 8 February 2021, SAL welcomed a new Chief Executive, Mr Rama Tiwari.
Having spent time in practice and in-house, he brings an understanding of the legal profession and its needs that is deep as it is broad. This, together with his extensive regional and international experience in the technology sector, will put him in good stead to lead the Academy and assist the profession at this time when internationalisation and technology are going to be the key drivers of change
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
Ms Serene Wee stepped down as SAL’s Chief Executive after 27 years of distinguished service. Her dedication and service to SAL were recorded in a tribute which can be read here.
SAL’s new Chief Executive Mr Rama Tiwari presenting a token of appreciation to outgoing Chief Executive Ms Serene Wee.
Enabling Future-Ready, Trusted Legal Professionals
SAL’s new mission, approved by the Executive Board in late 2020, showcases the impact we can make on the profession. It was developed following extensive interviews and conversations with both internal and external stakeholders from various sectors of our membership base.
Our vision of making Singapore the legal hub of Asia remains unchanged.
Member support package
May 2020 – March 2021
SAL rolled out an unprecedented S$4.2 million support package in three tranches.
How it helps:
Wills Registry on 4 May 2020 from the Public Trustee’s Office (PTO).
Legalisation of public documents for use overseas from MFA on 20 January 2021. Additional verification processes were put in place to ensure the integrity of Singapore documents presented overseas.
With effect from 16 September 2021, SAL is the Competent Authority to issue apostille certificates on public documents issued in Singapore under the Apostille Act.
The public no longer needs to incur time and cost to travel to MFA after their document has been authenticated at SAL.
SAL was awarded the Data Protection Trust Mark (“DPTM”) by Infocomm Media Development Authority (“IMDA”) in April 2020.
The DPTM certifies that SAL demonstrates good data protection practices. SAL was the first entity within the legal industry, the first entity in the professional services sector and the first industry association to achieve this certification.
people attended 39 learning programmes, all held virtually
members purchased an
Academy Publishing title
new Academy Publishing titles in print and
another 11 were released on LawNet
increase in the number of cases
published in Singapore Law Reports
pages of Supreme Court cases
of State Courts cases were published as
unreported judgments on LawNet
SAL and its subsidiaries enabled members to take the lead in research and innovation projects that have a significant impact on the practice of law in and outside of Singapore.
Legal development & content creation
We acquire and curate knowledge and disseminate it through multiple platforms. Over the years, we have earned a strong reputation for offering comprehensive, up-to-date legal content.
Research on cutting-edge legal topics
International engagement is a core strategy in our law reform work. Besides sharing relevant insights and best practices, our work with 30 members in law reform has also strengthened our relationships with overseas counterparts.
In March, Josh Lee a member of the Law Reform Committee’s Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Subcommittee was invited to discuss his report’s recommendations on Channel NewsAsia.
Promoting usage and familiarity of Singapore law
SAL promotes Singapore as a leading legal hub and in line with this, we have been positioning Singapore Law as an alternative governing law for contracts whenever neutral law and venue are required.
Promoting convergence of business laws in Asia
The Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI) is the go-to regional think-tank for cross-border commercial law. It promotes the convergence of Asian business laws, cultivates business networks and drives the promotion of Singapore legal thought leadership.
SAL continues to facilitate the development of development and adoption of technology solutions to drive legal industry productivity.
LawNet will be relaunched in 2022 with improved legal research experience for users, including an improved search algorithm, reference trace, fully responsive interface and easier content navigation. A closed beta version of the platform was released in March 2021 to gather feedback from stakeholders.
LawNet will eventually serve as a single hub for all SAL content and services, offering, among other things, a new eReading service and Asian legal content.
Uplifting the PIPD Bar
Training materials, including step-by-step instructional videos, were created to enable the members of the Personal Injury Property Damage (PIPD) bar to more effectively utilise their existing Microsoft Office tools to manage asynchronous hearings. This helped our members to embrace digitalisation and a Do-It-Yourself approach while work-from-home arrangements continue.
Supporting legal innovation
SAL worked with Singapore Management University students to develop an online application to help migrant workers easily determine the amounts of unpaid salaries that they should claim from their employers.
SAL continued to make strides in building the capability of the legal profession by identifying future skills, career progression pathways and setting professional standards. With the pandemic making face-to-face activities impossible, programmes were delivered online.
SAL will continue to invest in activities that support professional development of our members and create a sense of camaraderie in the legal community.
Senior members of the Bar and Judiciary shared their insights in a several well attended events including:
- A series of three webinars on Family Law and Children’s Rights presented under the rubric of SAL’s Specialist Insights Series. These very well-attended webinars featured speakers from our High Court, State Courts, Judges from the Family Justice Courts, as well as members of the Family Bar.
- A two-part series on the skills in cross-examining expert witnesses
- Two fireside chats with the State Courts District Judges and Assistant Registrars of the Supreme Court in held in December 2020.
Targeted at foreign lawyers in Singapore as well as their in-house clients, this virtual webinar garnered 280 registrations, including attendees from Continental Europe and USA, and Africa
In view of the safe distancing requirements in 2020, SAL together with the Law Society of Singapore organised this virtual get-together that enabled close to 250 participants to interact online and raised $36,250 for the Yellow Ribbon Fund – STAR Bursary.
The appointees and prize winners for 2020 are:
- Senior Counsel
– Mr Abraham Vergis SC, Ms Kristy Tan SC and Professor Goh Yihan SC.
- SAL Scholarships
– Law undergraduates Poh Yu Jun (NUS) and Timotheus Wong (SMU)
- Christopher Bathurst Prize
– David Isidore Tan, a senior associate at Rajah & Tann.
This evolution and the people behind our legal history are introduced for researchers, students and the wider public through our legal heritage programme.
Singapore, The Legal Hub of Asia
Enabling future-ready, trusted legal professionals.
The 46 members of the Senate oversee the management of SAL as well as its properties. Comprising esteemed members of the judiciary, legal service, Bar and academia, the Senate is led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who serves as its President.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon | Attorney-General Lucien Wong SC | Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong, JA | Justice Judith Prakash, JA | Justice Tay Yong Kwang, JA | Justice Steven Chong, JA | Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC
Professor Simon Chesterman | Professor Leslie Chew SC | Professor Goh Yihan | Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin | Justice Choo Han Teck | Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean | Justice Woo Bih Li
Justice Lee Seiu Kin | Justice Chan Seng Onn | Justice Quentin Loh | Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy | Justice Tan Siong Thye | Justice See Kee Oon | Justice Chua Lee Ming
Justice Kannan Ramesh | Justice Valerie Thean | Justice Hoo Sheau Peng | Justice Debbie Ong | Justice Aedit Abdullah | Justice Pang Khang Chau | Justice Audrey Lim
Justice Ang Cheng Hock | Justice Vincent Hoong | Justice Dedar Singh Gill | Justice Tan Puay Boon | Justice Mavis Chionh | Judicial Commissioner Mohan S/O Ramamirtha Subbaraman | Judicial Commisioner Andre Francis Maniam
Deputy Attorney-General Lionel Yee SC | Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair SC | Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck SC | Mr Giam Chin Toon SC | Mr Davinder Singh SC | Mr George Lim SC | Professor Yeo Tiong Min SC (honoris causa)
Professor Loy Wee Loon SC (honoris causa) | Mr Yeong Zee Kin | Mr Wong Taur-Jiun | Mr Gregory Tan
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
President, Singapore Academy of Law Chair, Board of Governors, Asian Business Law Institute
Attorney-General Lucien Wong SC
Vice-President, Singapore Academy of Law
Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong, JA
Vice-President, Singapore Academy of Law Chairperson, Legal Publishing and Knowledge Cluster
Justice Steven Chong, JA
Vice-President, Singapore Academy of Law Co-Chairperson, Legal Development Cluster
Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC
Vice-President, Singapore Academy of Law
Immediate Past President, Law Society of Singapore
Professor Simon Chesterman
Vice-President, Singapore Academy of Law
Dean, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore
Justice Belinda Ang
Chairperson, Board of Singapore Mediation Centre
Justice Lee Seiu Kin
Chairperson, Legal Technology Cluster Chair, Board of SAL Ventures Ltd
Justice Quentin Loh
Chairperson, Legal Development Cluster
Justice Tan Siong Thye
Chairperson, Corporate Development and Statutory Services Cluster
Justice See Kee Oon
Chairperson, Criminal Legal Assistance Steering Committee
Justice Aedit Abdullah
Chairperson, Legal Education Cluster and Co-Chairperson, Legal Technology Cluster
- Mr Giam Chin Toon SC - Chair
- Ms Thian Yee Sze
- Mr Colin Chow
- Mr Kelvin Wong
- Ms Melissa Goh Secretary
- Justice Chua Lee Ming - Chair
- Mr Cheung Pui Yuen
- Mr Kon Yin Tong
- Ms Juthika Ramanathan
- Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC
- Justice Quentin Loh - Chair
- Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC
- Mr Lee Eng Beng SC
- Mr Lee Kim Shin SC
- Ms Sharon Ong
- The Honourable Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean (Chairperson) - Judge, Supreme Court Of Singapore
- The Honourable Justice Hoo Sheau Peng - Judge, Supreme Court Of Singapore
- The Honourable Justice Audrey Lim - Judge, Supreme Court Of Singapore
- Mr Giam Chin Toon Sc - Senior Partner, Wee Swee Teow Llp
- Mr George Lim Sc - Consultant, Wee, Tay & Lim Llp
- Mr Chow Kok Fong - Director, Equitas Chambers Pte Ltd
- Ms Serene Wee - Special Advisor, To President Sal Singapore Academy Of Law
- Ms Teh Hwee Hwee - Registrar, Supreme Court Of Singapore
- Mr Daniel Cuthbert Ee - Independent Director, Keppel Infrastructure Fund Management Pte Ltd
- Ms Teresa Lim
- Mr Ong Yew Huat - Director, United Overseas Bank Limited
- Mr Robert Chew - Managing Partner, Iglobe Partners
- Mr Daniel Lim - Managing Director, Dreamcloud Pte Ltd
- Mr Lim Tat - Managing Partner, Aequitas Law Llp
- Mr Rama Tiwari - Chief Executive, Singapore Academy Of Law
- The Honourable Susan KIEFEL AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- The Honourable James ALLSOP AO, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia
- The Honourable Robert FRENCH AC, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
- The Honourable Kevin LINDGREN AM QC FAAL, former Judge of the Federal Court of Australia
- The Honourable Mr ZHANG Yongjian, former Senior Judge, Chief Judge of the Fourth Civil Division, Supreme People’s Court, People’s Republic of China
- The Honourable Justice GAO Xiaoli, Deputy Chief Judge of the Sixth Circuit Tribunal, Judge of the International Commercial Court, Supreme People’s Court, People’s Republic of China
- The Honourable Justice SHEN Hongyu, Deputy Chief Judge of the Fourth Civil Division, Judge of the International Commercial Court, Supreme People’s Court, People’s Republic of China
- The Honourable Justice A K SIKRI, International Judge of the Singapore International Commercial Court, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
- Mr Parag P TRIPATHI, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India
- Mr Rahul SINGH, Professor of Law at the National Law School of India University
- The Honourable The Chief Justice Sundaresh MENON, Chief Justice of Singapore
- Mr V K RAJAHSC, former Attorney-General of Singapore
- The Honourable Justice Andrew PHANG Boon Leong, Justice of the Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Singapore
- Professor Joseph WEILER, European Union Jean Monnet Chair at New York University Law School
- Professor Lucy REED, independent arbitrator, Arbitration Chambers (based in New York)
Key Executive: Mr Rama Tiwari, Chief Executive
The cluster explores processes and strategies that will refresh the delivery of the Academy’s products and services. It also drives much of SAL’s tech activities and oversees the management and development of LawNet.
- Legal Technology Committee
- Legal Research Committee
- Commercial Precedents Committee
- LawNet Transformation Working Group
- Innovation Advisory Board
- IT Security Steering Committee
Key Executive: Mr Paul Neo, Chief Operating Officer
The cluster comprises Corporate Development and Statutory Services. The Corporate Development arm ensures the smooth running of the Academy’s internal corporate machinery comprising finance, business partnering and risk management, organisational development and human resource, business process re-engineering, and corporate communications. Statutory Services oversees member relations, authentication services, the appointment of Commissioner for Oaths and Notaries Public, Stakeholding, the SAL Wills Registry and legalisation services.
- Corporate Development and Services Cluster Committee
- Board of Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public
- Audit Committee
- Budget Committee
- Investment Committee
- Staff Committee A
- Staff Committee B
- Corporate Social Responsibility Sub-committee
- SAL Annual Lecture Organising Committee
- Membership Sub-committee
Key Executive: Mr Bala Shumugam, Senior Director, Legal Publishing and Knowledge
With a view to growing the knowledge of the profession, this cluster publishes and disseminates primary and secondary content related to the law, past and present. This is done through the journals and books of Academy Publishing as well as its research portal LawNet.
- Legal Publishing and Knowledge Cluster Committee
- Commissioning Panel
- Council of Law Reporting
- Publications Committee
- Legal Heritage Committee
Key Executive: Mr Sriram Chakravarthi, Senior Director, Legal Development and Chief Legal Counsel (up to 31 December 2020)
Ms Anita Parkash, Deputy Director (covering)
Developing Singapore’s legal profession and recognising its stars—that is the raison d’etre of the Legal Development cluster. It is involved in the appointment of Senior Counsel, Specialist Accreditation of lawyers, Professional Affairs and the Promotion of Singapore Law, among other areas.
- Legal Development Cluster Committee
- Senior Counsel Selection Committee
- SAL Awards Selection Committee
- Overseas Attachment Selection Committee
- Law Reform Committee
- Professional Affairs Committee
- Promotion of Singapore Law Committee
- Criminal Legal Assistance Steering Committee
Key Executive: Ms Anita Parkash, Senior Director, Legal Education
Through virtual and offline conferences, seminars and workshops, the Legal Education cluster develops the professional capabilities of the sector. The cluster is guided by its own Legal Industry Framework for Training and Education (LIFTED), which charts a course forward for the profession.
- Legal Education Cluster Committee
- Junior College Law Programme Organising Committee
Key Executive: Mr Ban Jiun Ean, Executive Director
Established in 1997, the Singapore Mediation Centre’s primary functions include the provision of mediation services, as well as training in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution.
Key Executives: Professor Yeo Tiong Min SC (honoris causa), Academic Director
Mr Mark Fisher, Deputy Executive Director
Since 2016, the Institute has been initiating, conducting and facilitating research that guides Asian legal development and promotes the convergence of its business laws.
Key Executive: Mr Rama Tiwari, Executive Director
Founded in 2017, SAL Ventures supports the development of future law-related enterprises that encourage innovation and facilitate legal tech investments.
Mr Rama Tiwari
Mr Paul Neo
Chief Operating Officer
Mr Bala Shunmugam
Senior Director, Legal Publishing and Knowledge
Mr Ban Jiun Ean
Executive Director, Singapore Mediation Centre
Professor Yeo Tiong Min SC
Academic Director, Asian Business Law Institute
Mr Mark Fisher
Deputy Executive Director, Asian Business Law Institute
Ms Anita Parkash
Senior Director, Legal Education
Ms Angeline Poon
Director, Legal & Compliance