Mediation a critical subject for Singapore law schools: Edwin Tong

Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong (with red tie), with National University of Singapore (NUS) law dean Simon Chesterman (at far left) and Ministry of Law Deputy Secretary Han Kok Juan (behind Mr Tong), interacting with internatio
Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong (with red tie), with National University of Singapore (NUS) law dean Simon Chesterman (at far left) and Ministry of Law Deputy Secretary Han Kok Juan (behind Mr Tong), interacting with international students taking part in a mediation competition at NUS yesterday.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF LAW

Law schools in Singapore need to nurture a strong mediation curriculum, as the subject will become increasingly important in universities worldwide as demand for mediation services surge, said Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong yesterday.

The demand will also grow with the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation, a treaty that will enable enforcement of mediation settlement agreements more readily between the signatories.

This United Nations-backed treaty is due to be inked next week by signatories from across the globe, added Mr Tong.

Speaking at the opening of an international mediation competition here, he said: "There is clearly a very strong interest and, as demand for mediation services grows, it will be important to develop thought leadership in Singapore, nurture a strong mediation curriculum in our law schools and build a strong pool of professionals."

He added: "It (the competition) is testament to how important mediation has been, has become and also the interest around the world in mediation, and that signals a good start to the convention week we have ahead of us."

The three-day event, organised by the Singapore International Mediation Institute (Simi), will kick-start a week-long series of events, with the signing ceremony of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Aug 7.

A total of 140 students and 28 coaches from 30 universities will slug it out at the National University of Singapore's (NUS) law faculty.

Mr Tong noted that law schools of the universities in Singapore have already had mediation on their curriculum for some time.

Singapore has also built a dispute resolution ecosystem that backs the training and development of mediation professionals, he said, and this includes the work of the Singapore International Mediation Institute and the Law Society.

He urged them to do more, including developing "academic interest, writings and thought leadership because we must not assume that mediation with the signing of the Convention stops here".

"We must continue to evolve, develop and make sure it continues to serve the needs of stakeholders, especially business people," he said.

Unlike litigation and arbitration which have a winner and loser, mediation's real value "is to find a solution but at the same time preserve the relationship and long-term business dealings between two parties", he added.

The mediation competition will have the teams of students showing their negotiation and mediation skills in five complex commercial cases inspired by real disputes mediated by professionals.

Simi chairman Joel Lee said: "The overwhelming interest in the competition is a sign that mediation is something very much in the forefront of the minds of students and educators."

NUS law dean Simon Chesterman said that the students will have a major role to play in the future in the implementation of the convention.

University of Oslo law student Christopher Olsson Loenes said the competition is "where you learn a lot by yourself, where you take the risk of losing but not losing the client's money, so you try a lot of new things".

Wuhan University law student Ren Xiaolu said the convention will increase mediation in China, which will be a signatory.

"I hope to learn a lot from the coach, teammates and through communicating with the participants," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Mediation a critical subject for S'pore law schools: Edwin Tong'. Print Edition | Subscribe