Law graduates in Singapore

NUS law alumni reunite for 30th anniversary

Law school's class of 1986 recalls the energy and vibe that shaped so many high achievers

CJ Sundaresh Menon (right) and Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming (left) were classmates in NUS' law school 30 years ago.
CJ Sundaresh Menon (right) and Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming (left) were classmates in NUS' law school 30 years ago. PHOTOS: LAU FOOK KONG, SUPREME COURT
Lawyer Susan Leong met her husband Adrian Peh at NUS law school. The couple set up the law firm Yeo-Leong & Peh.
Lawyer Susan Leong met her husband Adrian Peh at NUS law school. The couple set up the law firm Yeo-Leong & Peh. PHOTO: SUSAN LEONG / FACEBOOK

The class of 1986 from the National University of Singapore's law faculty is an outstanding one.

The batch has produced not only a rare mix of legal and non-legal luminaries but has also raised more than $300,000 over the years for a scholarship to help bright, but needy, law students.

The who's who of the class of '86 includes Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah, two High Court judges, and three district court judges, as well as stage actress Neo Swee Lin and established local ballet dancer Jamaludin Jalil, now a senior lecturer at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts.

Associate Professor and former Nominated MP Simon Tay, who chairs the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, and former Tampines GRC MP Sin Boon Ann also hail from the same batch, not to mention the numerous successful private-sector lawyers from the cohort.

Last night, the class of '86 held a private reunion to celebrate their 30th anniversary.


"They were an accomplished batch because they brought diverse talents, and law is a discipline that equips you to do a lot of different things," said singer-songwriter and film score composer Kevin Mathews, 55, who is also from the same class. Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming is also a member of this cohort.

In a 2013 speech to mark the opening of the legal year then , CJ Menon told Mr Lok, who was then present as Law Society president, "Mr Lok, we had not the faintest inkling when we entered law school together as students more than 30 years ago, that we would one day be speaking in these circumstances."

CJ Menon recalled that the 1981 Jayakumar-Chin report which entailed a major review of the law school's curriculum was implemented just before he entered law school in 1982.

The Chief Justice told The Sunday Times that there were several changes and a couple stood out, such as an increase in class size.

"This was because the report observed that law graduates should not be restricted to careers in the legal services sector but could also pursue other opportunities in the public and private sector," he said.

The enrolment at the law school was to increase from around 70 or 80 a year to around 200 a year over a period of about six years, he said.

"Our class was in the midst of that phase and we had a class of 165 or so, which was large enough to feature a very interesting group of students and small enough to get to know most of your classmates.

" We had a good class spirit and I recall being very happy at law school," he added.

Another change was that students were required to take up a number of non-law subjects for a broader education.

Said CJ Menon: "I actually found that very interesting. I recall studying accounts, political science, international relations and public administration and I think I was enriched by all this."

As for Ms Indranee, she said that "the very diverse and colourful personalities are what gave our class its energy and vibe".

She said she has maintained the friendships she made in law school throughout her years in legal practice and even now as Senior Minister of State for Law. Knowing the people in the profession helps a lot as one can discuss matters candidly, including industry feedback, she said.

She holds fond memories of training for the Jessup Moot competition, a prestigious international event that draws participants from almost 700 law schools in more than 90 countries.

While the law school's curriculum was of a very high standard across the board, "Jessup training was the law school equivalent of Commando training", she said, adding it taught her to think clearly, write well and to "greatly sharpen my advocacy".

"In those days, the big challenge for the Jessup trainees was to clear the final practice round with the 'Killer Bench' before we left for the competition," she recalled.

This formidable group comprised Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, Senior Counsel V.K. Rajah, who is now Attorney-General, Senior Counsel Steven Chong, now a High Court Judge, and Senior Counsel Jimmy Yim - who are all former Jessup Mooters themselves, she noted.

"Doing that round was like trying to get up a hill under a constant barrage of artillery fire. But, as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and so it was for us," she added.

Sparks - of the romantic kind - flew too for others of the class of '86.

It was at NUS law school that lawyer Susan Leong met her future husband Adrian Peh, who is now managing director of the law firm Yeo- Leong & Peh which they set up.

"We will be married 30 years next year. We see law as a service to the community by helping others resolve their legal problems. Coincidentally, all our three children are law graduates," she said.

For lawyer Selva K. Naidu, 56, who also hails from the class of '86, his father's work in the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) was a " powerful influence" for him to study law then. His father P. N. Ramoo had served as legal assistant at the AGC for a record 56 years.

Said Mr Naidu: "The class of '86 was a motley bunch, brimming with promise."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 28, 2016, with the headline 'NUS law alumni reunite for 30th anniversary'. Subscribe