SINGAPORE - Entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow Theng Beng, who physically and verbally abused three employees over a one-month period in 2018, was struck off the rolls on Wednesday (May 18).
In a written judgment, the Court of Three Judges said a striking off was warranted as Seow’s conduct demonstrated a character defect rendering him unfit to be a member of the legal profession.
The court, which is the highest disciplinary body for the legal profession, said Seow’s behaviour was egregious and “evinced such volatility and lack of self-control that it detracts from his ability to discharge his professional functions”.
The court, comprising Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Justices Andrew Phang and Steven Chong, added that Seow's conduct had caused grave dishonour to the standing of the profession.
Seow, 49, had admitted before a disciplinary tribunal in 2019 to eight instances of professional misconduct involving three women employees at his office in South Bridge Road between March 16, 2018, and April 17, 2018.
A 30-minute audio recording of the incident on April 17, 2018, was circulated online that year, while two leaked video clips from that day were uploaded on YouTube and went viral in April 2019.
Seow, who was known for representing celebrities, ran his firm Samuel Seow Law Corporation as well as his talent management company Beam Artistes from the office.
Five of the charges related to his “intemperate and boorish conduct” towards Ms Rachel Kang Pei Shan, an artiste and events executive, between March 16, 2018, and April 3, 2018.
They involved throwing files, boxes, a metal stapler and a wallet in her direction, shouting at her aggressively and threatening to take a knife to kill her.
The other three charges related to acts of violence on April 17, 2018, against Ms Kang; Ms Brenda Kong Shin Ying, a lawyer who is also Seow's niece; and Ms Serene Tan Tzuu Yen, a secretary and conveyancing executive.
Seow first jabbed Ms Kang’s forehead with his finger and pushed the files that she was holding against her chest.
He then grabbed Ms Kong’s arms, pushed her against a table, repeatedly slapped her, jabbed his finger at her forehead, and pushed her such that she fell backwards.
Seow then pushed Ms Tan to the floor. He also aggressively berated Ms Kong and Ms Tan.
In March 2020, a two-member disciplinary tribunal found that there was cause of sufficient gravity for Seow to be sanctioned by the court, which has the power to suspend or disbar lawyers.
In February this year, the Law Society of Singapore urged the court to impose a striking off.
On Wednesday, the court said it was plain that the eight instances were not isolated incidents.
Other employees testified before the disciplinary tribunal that Seow “was a temperamental man who was prone to bouts of extreme emotion”, and that shouting and screaming were fairly regular occurrences.
Criminal charges were also filed against Seow over some of the incidents.
In July 2020, he pleaded guilty in court to one count each of assaulting Ms Kong and using criminal force on Ms Kang.
Two other charges, one for harassment and one for using criminal force, will be considered during sentencing.
Law Society president Adrian Tan told The Straits Times: “In this day and age, law firm culture must be a safe space that provides mental wellness.
“Senior lawyers must be role models in how they treat subordinates, so that they thrive.”
Mr Tan said the society will not tolerate any lawyer who abuses or bullies juniors or employees, and that the legal profession will continue to hold itself to the highest personal standards, in court and outside court.