Book marking the Law Society's 50th year launched

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (second from right) and president of the Law Society of Singapore Gregory Vijayendran (far right) cut a cake with other past presidents of the Society.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon (second from right) and president of the Law Society of Singapore Gregory Vijayendran (far right) cut a cake with other past presidents of the Society.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Singapore's success today as a commercial metropolis and financial hub is in no small way due to sustained confidence in the administration of justice and the Republic's commitment to the rule of law.

In making this point, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the Law Society plays a critical role in ensuring the legal profession upholds the rule of law.

In a foreword for a book marking the Law Society's 50th year, CJ Menon said the Society today "is not only responsible for the maintenance and improvement of standards of the legal profession in Singapore, but in many senses, it is also the face of the profession".

The Law Society has served "as an initial reference point for the public, promising access to justice through the Pro Bono Service Office" which runs various programmes, he added. He made the comments in lauding the Law Society on its "remarkable achievements over the last half-century".

He launched the book "Fiat Justitia - Fifty Years of the Law Society of Singapore" on Nov 10 at the Society's dinner to mark its Golden Jubilee Year.

The book tells of the Law Society's "tremendous growth as an organisation and the rapid development of Singapore's legal profession from its roots in the colonial times, through its eventful post-independence days to its success as a regional hub today", he noted.

Written by Professor Kevin Tan and published by ST Press, it was specially commissioned by the Law Society to chronicle its journey in the last five decades.

"All major episodes in the Society's history - from the colourful to the dark - are found in the pages. Frankly, there is enough drama to last a centennial," said Law Society president Gregory Vijayendran in the book's preface.

Anecdotes and accolades abound in the book. This includes the day a group of lawyers staged a skit at the Society's 1996 annual dinner titled CJ Superstar, or Chief Justice Superstar, with then Chief Justice Yong Pung How in attendance.

The skit had drawn broadly on the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

"The skit was quite cheeky and critical, and sort of told him to go back to banking," recalled then Society president Chandra Mohan K. Nair in the book. Two days after the Saturday dinner, he sought and met the Chief Justice in the presence of registrar Chiam Boon Keng, who took notes.

He explained that "people get carried away" and, in case an apology was required, he apologised. Mr Chandra went on for another 10 minutes and ended by saying "Sir, no doubt you and your learned brethren will be at the Law Society dinner next year, won't you?"

He said CJ Yong replied: "Of course we'll be there. Alright we'll move on to the next topic."

In another episode, ex-Law Society president Peter Cuthbert Low recalled how he and two others met up with then Straits Times Editor Leslie Fong at a hotel at 11pm in 1992 because they were concerned the newspaper ran stories of errant lawyers in a prominent manner. He said Mr Fong told them to do some damage control and reassure the public.

"Leslie told me, 'Peter, if something bad happens, I will give you some space, so please say something. Please don't say 'no comment'."

The book also provides glimpses of a lawyer’s life in the 1960s.

The late senior counsel Joseph Grimberg, who was already practising then, described how he could not shop at Cold Storage because the firm was a client of Drew & Napier, where he worked.

"That's in case you ran up a hefty bill and didn't pay you see," he said.

The book is "an epic on our common history shaped by, and shared with the lively, bold and spirited lawyers of the past", added Mr Vijayendran.