Late Law Society president Adrian Tan had a ‘good legal mind and a good heart’: Shanmugam

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A memorial service for Adrian Tan, the president of the Law Society, was held at The Arts House on July 31. At the service, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said Mr Tan was a man with a “good legal mind and a good heart".

SINGAPORE – Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam described the late Adrian Tan as a much beloved leader and friend, a man with a “good legal mind and a good heart”.

In a memorial service for Mr Tan on Monday evening, Mr Shanmugam said: “He connected well with Singaporeans, not just on legal topics, but almost any issue he spoke on.

“He had an original mind, a good perspective and an authentic voice. He was open to views and had very little ego. Most of all, we cherish his unique and wonderful sense of humour.”

Mr Tan was diagnosed with cancer in March 2022 and he said that it was a rare type of cancer. He died on July 8 at the age of 57.

Mr Shanmugam said Mr Tan believed that the law was a calling and a way to help others by speaking up for them.

As president of the Law Society, Mr Tan looked at ways to help lawyers stay in the profession, encouraged law firms to embrace technology, and spoke up for the profession when it faced criticism, among other things.

Mr Tan also advocated for the many social issues he cared about, under his “King of Singapore” persona that he adopted on LinkedIn.

Mr Shanmugam said these posts were written with Mr Tan’s customary wit and humour, but he made serious points that resonated with people.

When Mr Tan revealed his cancer diagnosis on LinkedIn, he wrote that he would continue to “fight cancer, fight cases in court, and fight for lawyers as their president until the clock runs out”.

The memorial tribute display for Mr Adrian Tan, at The Arts House on July 31. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

And he did just that, TSMP Law Corporation joint managing partner Stefanie Yuen-Thio told The Straits Times.

Mrs Yuen-Thio said Mr Tan fought to the end when he was hospitalised for complications from cancer. He asked his wife to bring his suit to him in hospital, thinking he could attend a hearing scheduled for a few days later, but his condition worsened rapidly.

“He felt that he had unfinished business and people to look after and causes to advocate for.”

She added: “His presence sort of lit up his surroundings. He could read the phone book out and make people laugh. A light has gone out for all of us.” 

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam (left) and TSMP Law Corporation joint managing partner Stefanie Yuen-Thio arriving at the memorial service for Law Society’s ex-president Adrian Tan. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mr Tan’s wit and way with words were also highlighted by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and High Court Judge Hri Kumar Nair, who were among the six who spoke at the memorial held at the Arts House.

About 450 people attended the memorial, which was organised by TSMP Law Corporation, where Mr Tan was a partner. Besides his professional contributions, the six speakers also talked about his love for his wife, and his compassion and kindness.

The memorial tribute display for Mr Adrian Tan, at The Arts House on July 31. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Chief Justice Menon described Mr Tan as a doer with a heart, who cared for the less fortunate. He noted Mr Tan was the honorary legal counsel for the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped, and made tangible contributions to improve its beneficiaries’ lot.

For example, he advocated for them to the authorities and helped to bring about a change in processes so that the blind could vote independently.

Chief Justice Menon described Mr Adrian Tan as a doer with a heart, who cared for the less fortunate.  ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

In the 2011 General Election, the Elections Department introduced special stencils so that the blind could mark the ballot paper on their own. Before that, presiding officers had to ask them their choice and often marked the ballot paper for them.

Mr Nair, who had been friends with Mr Tan since their law school days, said Mr Tan’s wit did not diminish with age, stress or illness. “And that is what people most know him for – his talent and capacity to make people feel joyful.”

Mr Tan had told him the doctors gave him 12 to 18 months to live, but he was determined to do everything to beat the cancer. He carried that optimism to the end, Mr Nair said.

Besides his legal career spanning over 30 years, Mr Tan is also known as the author of The Teenage Textbook and its sequel, The Teenage Workbook. The bestseller about the lives and loves of junior college students was eventually made into a movie, a play and a TV series.

Far East Hospitality CEO Arthur Kiong speaks during the memorial service for Mr Adrian Tan. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

His long-time buddy, Mr Arthur Kiong, recalled his last conversation with Mr Tan in June. Even though Mr Tan was seriously ill at that time, he comforted Mr Kiong, who was feeling down.

When Mr Kiong, who is the chief executive of Far East Hospitality, pointed out the irony of Mr Tan doing the comforting, his reply was: “Never compare, Arthur. Because each life is unique, and so are our challenges.”

Mr Kiong added: “He never regarded anyone else’s plight to be less significant than his. And he always had time for others, and such is Adrian as a friend.”

Mr Tan leaves his wife, Angelina. They have no children.

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