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Letter to the NUS Law Community

Dear Members of the NUS Law Community,

A new year offers us the chance of new beginnings, as well as hopes of wisdom through learning from what is past.

In an academic institution, the rhythm of life is shaped by the experience of our students: their arrival; their stresses and successes inside and outside the classroom; their graduation. That rhythm is cyclical, but any serious academic institution also hopes to have a trajectory. We aspire to continual improvement of our educational offerings, and through our research we hope to add to the sum total of human knowledge.

So it is with NUS Law, where the past year has seen major developments in both our teaching and our research. It has also been a year of considerable growth of the faculty and our staff, and a year notable for the many achievements of our students.

In this, my second annual letter as Dean, allow me to share with you some of the highlights.

Top 10 in the World

Among those highlights was the recognition accorded to NUS Law by London-based Quacquarelli Symonds (QS), whose World University Rankings by Subject saw us rise from 24th in 2011 to 10th in 2012.

This latest acknowledgement of our achievements is testimony to the hard work of our faculty and students, but also the successes of our alumni. Our high ranking will create even more opportunities for our graduates to make an impact in their chosen field, in Singapore and around the world.

An example of such opportunities can be seen in the agreement I signed last month with Tsinghua Law School. This will enable our LL.B. students to complete an LL.M. at Tsinghua, as well as encouraging some of the very strongest Chinese law students to spend a year in Singapore.

Advisory Council

All of us at NUS Law were delighted when Professor S Jayakumar ’63 rejoined the faculty after many years of government service. I was particularly pleased when he agreed to chair a new Advisory Council that provides counsel and support to the decanal team, as well as acting as a liaison between the Law School and the legal profession in Singapore and internationally.

The other members of the Council are Drew & Napier’s Cavinder Bull SC, Justice Chao Hick Tin, Attorney-General Steven Chong ’82, Clifford Chance Managing Partner Geraint Hughes, CEO of Hogan Lovells Lee & Lee Amy Lee ’82, Partner at Wee Tay & Lim George Lim SC ’81, King & Spalding’s John Savage, former President of the Law Society Wong Meng Meng SC ’71, and Second Solicitor General and now Judicial Commissioner Lionel Yee.

It has been an honour getting to know the members of the Council and I take this opportunity to note how important their counsel and support has been in the past year. I also acknowledge the tremendous contributions made by the past Advisory Board chaired by former Dean Tommy Koh ’61.

S. Jayakumar

New Faces

Our faculty has been strengthened by key hires at all levels.

Professor Michael Bridge has joined us from the London School of Economics. One of the top private commercial lawyers in the world, Michael is the author of several leading treatises with Oxford University Press and is the general editor of Benjamin’s Sale of Goods.

We have two new assistant professors. Mark McBride holds advanced degrees in Law (Cambridge) and in Philosophy (Oxford). He has published in areas ranging from the nature of law in general to the relationship between justifications and excuses in the criminal law. Swati Jhaveri took a first in Law at Oxford and followed up with a distinction in the BCL. She has practised with Allen & Overy and previously taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, focusing on public law and torts.

Our clinical programmes will be significantly enhanced by the appointment of Ruby Lee ’85 as Associate Professor (Professional Practice). Ruby has a background in legal education as well as serving as director in several companies. Another new colleague who moved from practice is Sonita Jeyapathy ’03, who was a partner at Allen & Gledhill before joining us as Deputy Director of our Legal Writing Programme.

We were also pleased to welcome back Ho Peng Kee ’79, who rejoined the faculty on a part-time basis as Associate Professorial Fellow. A graduate of NUS and Harvard, Peng Kee first joined the NUS Law faculty in June 1979. From 1993, he was on no-pay leave from NUS to serve in the Ministry of Law & Ministry of Home Affairs as Parliamentary Secretary, then Minister of State (1997-2001) and Senior Minister of State (2001-2011).

Even as we share these welcomes, we prepare to celebrate the retirement of Emeritus Professor Peter Ellinger, whose association with NUS Law spans more than 30 years. We will honour his many contributions to legal education and scholarship in Singapore at an event planned for 22 April 2013, at which Peter will deliver a “farewell address” on banking law and practice. I hope to see many of you there.

 

  

 Michael Bridge, Mark McBride and Swati Jhaveri  

   
 
 Ruby Lee '85, Sonita Jeyapathy '03 and Peter Ellinger
 

Research Excellence

These new and returning colleagues join a faculty that continues to produce outstanding scholarship across the spectrum of legal research.

In addition to dozens of scholarly articles and book chapters, as well as scores of conference papers, the following books appeared in the past year: Thio Li-ann’s A Treatise on Singapore Constitutional Law (Academy Publishing) which was launched by the former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ’61; Jeffrey Pinsler’s Principles of Civil Procedure (Academy Publishing); Andrew Harding’s Constitution of Malaysia: A Contextual Analysis (Hart); and Wee Swee Teow & Co: A Centenary Legacy by Kevin Tan ’86. Justice Andrew Phang ’82, together with Goh Yihan ’06, published Contract Law in Singapore (Wolters Kluwer).

We also welcomed the second editions of Leong Wai Kum’s Elements of Family Law in Singapore (LexisNexis); Global Anti-Terrorism Law and Policy (Cambridge University Press) by Victor Ramraj and Michael Hor ’84; Guarantees and Performance Bonds (LexisNexis) by Poh Chu Chai ’73; and Criminal Law in Malaysia and Singapore: A Casebook Companion (LexisNexis, with Neil Morgan) by Chan Wing Cheong and Stanley Yeo ’76. Mindy Chen-Wishart’s Contract Law (Oxford University Press) and Teo Keang Sood’s Strata Title in Singapore and Malaysia (LexisNexis) entered their fourth editions.

Our faculty also edited major works on a variety of topics of national and regional significance. These included: The Derivative Action in Asia (Cambridge University Press, edited together with Harald Baum) by Dan Puchniak and Michael Ewing-Chow ’95; the second volume of ASEAN Environmental Law, Policy and Governance: Selected Documents (World Scientific) by Koh Kheng Lian ’61; Old Evidence and Core International Crimes (Torkel Opsahl, edited with Morten Bergsmo) by Cheah Wui Ling ’03; Law, Virtue and Justice (Hart Publishing, edited with Amalia Amaya) by Ho Hock Lai ’89; and The Law of Reputation and Brands in the Asia Pacific (Cambrige, edited with Andrew T. Kenyon and Megan Richardson) by Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87.

Thio Li-ann, Jeffrey Pinsler and Andrew Harding
Kevin Tan '86, Goh Yihan '06 and Leong Wai Kum
Victor Ramraj, Michael Hor '84 and Poh Chu Chai '73 
  
Chan Wing Cheong, Stanley Yeo'76 and Mindy Chen-Wishart
Teo Keang Sood, Dan Puchniak and Michael Ewing-Chow '95
Koh Kheng Lian '61, Cheah Wui Ling '03 and Ho Hock Lai '89
Ng-Loy Wee Loon '87
  

New Research Centres

Last year we launched a new Centre for Asian Legal Studies, headed by Andrew Harding and Wang Jiangyu. Part of our strategy to position NUS Law as Asia’s Global Law School, the Centre’s ambitious aim is nothing less than moving the focus of Asian legal studies as a discipline from Europe and North America to Singapore.  

This year, we will establish a new Centre for Law & Business, led by Tan Cheng Han SC ’87 and Lan Luh Luh ’89. It will build on NUS Law’s extensive experience in commercial law teaching and research, bringing together faculty members whose interests cover a wide spectrum of commercial law subjects, colleagues from the NUS Business School and other faculties, and distinguished visitors from around the world. Its work will be of scholarly value to academics, but also policy relevance to the wider business community.

 

Working with Vice Dean for Research Stephen Girvin, these centres serve as a focal point for research and enhance the impact of the work done at NUS Law. That effort is part of a larger project to support the goal of establishing Singapore as a global legal services centre, transforming the perception of Singapore as a safe harbour to a thought leader in legal research and practice.

 

 
Wang Jiangyu and Tan Cheng Han '87

 
Lan Luh Luh '89 and Stephen Girvin

Faculty Achievements

Our faculty also made significant achievements in other areas. 

On the teaching front, Dan Puchniak won an NUS Annual Teaching Excellence Award. I recently had the pleasure of announcing our own Faculty Teaching Excellence awards, with honours going to Sandra Booysen (LLM ’03, PhD ’09), Goh Yihan ’06, Joel Lee, Jeffrey Pinsler, and Dan Puchniak. Dan also won a prize for best paper at the annual Australian Corporate Law Teachers Association conference.

The Ministry of Law’s Outstanding Volunteer Award was presented to Michael Hor ’84 for his substantial contribution to various law reform projects by MinLaw involving criminal law and criminal practice. At the same ceremony, Debbie Ong ’89 received a Legal Aid Bureau Amicus Award for her support of LAB’s work.

Former Dean Tan Cheng Han SC ’87 was appointed Chairman of the new Media Literacy Council. This new body will spearhead public education on media literacy and cyber wellness, and advise the government on the appropriate policy response to an increasingly complex and borderless world of media, technology, consumer expectations and participation. In a related area, I have been asked to join the new Data Protection Advisory Committee that will advise on administration and enforcement of Singapore’s new Personal Data Protection Act. 

Koh Kheng Lian ’61 was awarded the Elizabeth Haub Prize for Environmental Law, in recognition of her important and pioneering contributions to the development and evolution of environmental law in Singapore and in the whole ASEAN region.

   

  Sandra Booysen LLM'03, PhD'09, Joel Lee, Debbie Ong '89

Student Achievements

The lifeblood of NUS Law is our students. We have rich traditions such as Orientation, Rag & Flag, the Law IV Musical, the Farewell Dinner, and Commencement. Above and beyond the normal rigours of law school studies, these events mark our calendar and shape the experience of our students.  

You may be interested to know that our students once again enjoyed great success in mooting and other international competitions. Among other achievements, Benjamin Moh ’12 and Eddy Hirono ’13 won the International Negotiation Competition in Belfast; second year LL.B. students Trent Ng ’15, Ramandeep Kaur ’15 and Larisa Cheng ’15 came in tops at the inaugural International Banking and Investment Law (IBAIL) Moot Court Competition 2012, held at Jaipur, India; while Kelvin Chong ’15 and Xiao Hongyu ’14 won the Asian British Parliamentary Debating Championships 2012, held in Jakarta, Indonesia. Andre Tan Qing Yang ’11 and Marcus Lim Tao Shien ’12 received the Group Trophy Award in the Competitions category at the NUS Student Achievement Awards 2012. In the 2012 Oxford IP Moot, Lee Hui Yi ’12 was named the Best Individual Speaker in the competition, as was April Cheah ’12 in the Asia-Pacific Regionals of the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition.  

As many of you will know, there is an increased interest in pro bono work among our students. In September 2012, we established a Pro Bono Office to oversee the multitude of voluntary student pro bono activities and to look into the implementation of a more comprehensive programme for all students in the near future.  

And of course our students continued to work hard in their studies. There were many academic achievements worthy of note, but I will limit myself to mentioning that Amos Toh ’12, valedictorian for last year’s class, completed his degree under our LL.B.-LL.M. programme with NYU and topped the general LL.M. there also.  

Alumni Relations & Development 

Our alumni continued to make us proud, with many achievements worthy of recognition. Among these, we celebrated with former Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong ’61 the end of an illustrious career on the bench. He is succeeded by another alumnus, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon ’86. Another senior appointment was that of Attorney-General Steven Chong ’82, who also serves on our new Advisory Council. Lok Vi Ming SC ’86 was also appointed the new President of Law Society in November last year.  

Our alumni have also been making their mark in the community. Indranee Rajah ’86 was promoted to Senior Minister of State for Law and Education and more recently, Halimah Yacob ’78 was appointed the Speaker of Parliament.  

Alumni contribute to the life of NUS Law in many ways. In November we launched a new NUS Law Alumni Mentor Programme (“LAMP”). This initiative links first and second year students with recent alumni, who can provide insights and guidance to the practice of law. At the same time, we hope the programme will provide an opportunity for greater engagement with our alumni.  

We also had the opportunity to award new prizes and scholarships, notably our first Wee Chong Jin Scholarship in Law. The award is to support law students pursuing their undergraduate studies at NUS Law who embody similar values to the late Mr Wee. In celebration of their 110th anniversary, Allen & Gledhill also made a generous contribution to support academically outstanding but financially needy students. 

Other prizes established this year include the David Ernest S. Chelliah Medal and Prize, and the Roger Fisher Prize in Negotiation. Such awards encourage our students to ever greater achievements, as well as honouring the names of individuals who offer role models and inspiration to us all.  

It also gives me great pleasure to announce that we have received a pledge from Sat Pal Khattar ’66 to establish the Sat Pal Khattar Professorship in Tax Law. Sat Pal’s extraordinary generosity to his alma mater will strengthen our tax offerings and highlight its importance as a field of study. This endowed chair is also a fitting tribute to Sat Pal’s own contributions to tax law in the course of an illustrious career.  

Another new development is the establishment of the Amaladass Professorship later this year. Building on the Amaladass Fellowship, this new chair honours the late Mr Amaladass’ work in criminal law. It is made possible by the generous support of an anonymous donor.  

Such endowed chairs can be vital tools to ensure faculty excellence. They enable us to hire and retain the very best faculty, as well as recognising the achievements of an outstanding academic. As the name of the chair is permanent, it also ensures a lasting legacy — with future generations of law students benefitting from the gift.  

If you would like to discuss ways in which you might advance the mission of NUS Law, please do not hesitate to contact Trina Gan ’04 or myself directly.  

Looking Forward

The year ahead promises to be an exciting one, with important changes in our curriculum and opportunities to deepen the impact of our research.  

Among other things, we are in the middle of the first major review of our curriculum in a decade. Vice Dean of Academic Affairs Ng-Loy Wee Loon ’87 and I were delighted by the number of alumni, students and other stakeholders who responded to our discussion paper. We are now working closely with faculty, students, and our Advisory Council to determine how best to improve the strong curriculum that we already have.  

With the launch of new centres, our research activities will grow in quantity and quality. Among other things, I hope that our many stakeholders will get a better sense of the rich and diverse work going on at our Bukit Timah Campus.  

Add in our expanded clinical and pro bono programmes, new initiatives by the Law Club working with Vice Dean of Student Affairs Joel Lee, and many other items on the agenda — and we will certainly be busy.  

Together with all my colleagues, I offer best wishes to you and your loved ones for the calendar and lunar New Years. I hope that they bring you peace, happiness, and fulfilment.

 

Simon Chesterman
Dean, NUS Law 

If you have a Facebook account, one way to keep up to date with these changes and to receive more frequent updates on our activities is to “like” our page: www.facebook.com/NUS.Law

 

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