Not yet ready to quit

This story was first published in My Paper on June 4, 2014

Well-known criminal lawyer Subhas Anandan is “irritated” with the new generation of lawyers, many of whom he feels do pro bono for publicity.

“They are jumping onto the bandwagon for their own selfish reasons,” he told My Paper.

He may be less robust-looking than usual because of his failing health, but his signature grisly sideburns and hair, now speckled white, still give him a look many may have feared, in and out of court.

He may be fierce in his professional capacity, but many describe him as “compassionate”. And with reason.

“Pro bono should come from the heart,” he said. He himself is not new to pro bono work.

His clients, many of them gangster-types who did not have money, used to give his mother eggs and chicken essence in exchange for his legal advice.

This, after he “accidentally” ventured into criminal law.

With his trademark photographic memory, Mr Subhas recounted his first case in the 1970s.

He said that a friend, who was a big shot in a multinational corporation, had been caught stealing flowers.

He managed to have his charge reduced from vandalism to theft. And because of the status of the man, the media was interested in it and published both their names.

That introduced him to the world.

Many of his friends came from Sembawang and several were involved in criminal ventures. They turned to him for help and his career was made.

He said he never went looking for high-profile cases.

He gave the example of Huang Na’s case from 2004, which made waves in the media. The eight-year-old girl was then believed to have been murdered by her mother’s friend, Took Leng How.

Mr Subhas headed the team representing Took, pro bono.

“The parents took an overnight bus from Penang to see me, and held my leg and asked for help. How not to help?” he asked.

Took was eventually sentenced to hang.

At the time, Mr Subhas did not reveal that he was providing pro bono services. It was Took’s parents who talked about it.

Although his illness has taken a toll on him, Mr Subhas is far from done.

Right now, he intends to return to work and then go for his dialysis at the end of the day, at 5pm.

“There are finishing touches to be made,” he said, referring to finding someone to take over from him, and beefing up the team.

He has achieved the heights he wanted to reach, he said. He wants to make RHTLaw TaylorWessing, which he set up, one of the top firms here.

He is restless. Even now, while he rests at home, clients visit him. Even after retiring, hopefully in two or three years, he may work in the background, as a senior consultant.

He is not ready to quit, he said. But there are other reasons. With a hint of a smile he said: “If I stay at home all the time, chances are I’ll drive her (his wife) mad.”

This story was first published in My Paper on June 4, 2014