Law Society confers lifetime achievement award on 'friend of the underdog'

 Veteran lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low was conferred the C.C. Tan Award, an annual accolade bestowed since 2003 to lawyers who best personify the example and ideals set by the Society's first president, Mr Tan Chye Cheng.
Veteran lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low was conferred the C.C. Tan Award, an annual accolade bestowed since 2003 to lawyers who best personify the example and ideals set by the Society's first president, Mr Tan Chye Cheng. ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - In his 37-year career, veteran lawyer Peter Cuthbert Low has looked to emulate senior lawyers who were professionally competent, ethically sound and also inspiring.

On Friday night (Nov 10), the man himself was honoured and recognised by the Law Society for the same values he holds dear.

Mr Low, 66, was conferred the C.C. Tan Award, an annual accolade bestowed since 2003 to lawyers who best personify the example and ideals set by the Society's first president, Mr Tan Chye Cheng.

Mr Tan was known for having "embodied the finest and noblest traditions of the legal profession - honesty, fair play, gentlemanliness and personal integrity - throughout his long and illustrious career", said Society vice-president Kuah Boon Theng.

Ms Kuah said this in reciting the citation for Mr Low at the Society's annual dinner held on Friday.

Once dubbed "a friend of the underdog", and known for his quiet, humble and down to earth demeanour, Mr Low is a firm believer in access to justice. It is rooted in his humble beginnings, added Ms Kuah.

Among other things, he has taken on several controversial cases where access to counsel was problematic, she added.

Mr Low, who was Law Society president for two years from 1993, started his career as a state counsel and deputy public prosecutor from 1977 till 1981, before joining heavyweight law firm Drew & Napier.

He is currently managing director of Peter Low & Choo LLC.

As president, he pioneered the first Work Plan for the Law Society and also took steps to improve press relations.

He also chaired a committee that reviewed the publicity rules for lawyers and sat on the committee tasked to draw up a conduct code for lawyers which came into force as the Legal Profession (Professional Conduct) Rules in June 1998.

Mr Low, in accepting the award, said: "Coming from my peers, this award means a lot to me."

He said that when he set up a two-lawyer partnership many years ago, he did not expect to be called "a friend of the underdog".

"Instead, I had thought that I would simply be known as the defender of petty thieves, crooks, shoplifters and the occasional hopeless legally aided-assigned cases.

"But my professional career has taken a few surprising turns. Along the way, I have had to handle other types of cases including those with unpopular causes."

He cited defending the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine, which had been sued for defamation by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, in 2007. He said he was unable to get more senior lawyers from better-resourced firms to take on the case, as instructed by the owner of the Review.

Mr Low said he has been asked why he took on such cases.

"My answer is that I believe people should not be denied access to counsel, especially where their causes are unpopular."

Past C.C. Tan Award winners include senior counsels Harry Elias, Joseph Grimberg and George Lim.