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Photo courtesy of Singapore Tatler, Sept 2013 issueRecently re-elected as the President of the Singapore Law Society for another year, Lok Vi Ming SC ’86, continues his crusade to strengthen various areas within the law fraternity and to champion pro bono efforts through nurturing the young. He is also a partner at Rodyk & Davidson LLP. Mr Lok speaks to LawLink on his future plans and also his experience at NUS Law. 

LawLink: With your recent re-appointment as President of the Singapore Law Society, what are the upcoming developments that we can expect?

Mr Lok: We have organised more outreach sessions such as lunches with members at the Sub Courts Bar Room. The turn-out at these sessions have been encouraging and the feedback from members have been useful. We will continue with such initiatives and explore more ways to further improve dialogue with our members to better understand issues, concerns and viewpoints from as wide a cross section of the profession as possible.

On the CPD front, the Society will continue to keep up with interesting topics that will be useful to our members and the legal profession and we are definitely looking to organise more events and some exciting events have been lined up within the first half of the new year.

In April, there is the Litigation Conference Workshop organised by the Law Society which will be a hands on, skills enhancement event involving our own SCs as well as foreign QCs. Then later in the year, we will be working with the Supreme Court to run an advanced advocacy course with the help of a prestigious faculty comprising foreign QCs and some of our own SCs. Together with the Ministry of Law, we will also be organising a study trip for lawyers which will likely take place in the first half of this year.

LawLink: What are your thoughts on Pro-Bono being a compulsory module? How will this experience benefit future legal practitioners?

Mr Lok: As I stated at my Opening of the Legal Year speech 2013, we want to imbue pro bono as part of the DNA of every lawyer. This means that the spirit of pro bono must be introduced to and nurtured in the legal practitioner right from the very start of his legal education, well before his legal career begins. 

In this regard, I certainly see the inclusion of pro bono as a compulsory module for undergraduate studies to be a step in the right direction.

LawLink: Can you share with us more on “sustainable” pro-bono activities that we can expect in the future?

Mr Lok: We are constantly on the lookout for gaps in the knowledge of law and access to justice. One project we support wholeheartedly is “Project Schools”. The project is aimed at creating a greater awareness of the law and informing youths of the consequences of juvenile delinquency. The strength of this project lies in its long term goals, and the learning processes that are already in place in our schools. By training more students today, we are laying the foundation for better access to justice and legal knowledge in the future. This is an investment for the future, and presents a greater chance for long term sustainability.

Another interesting initiative which was just launched last December is a law awareness project to assist young adults intending to set up social enterprises. Called “Project legaleSE”, it encompasses the launch of a legal tool kit for young/budding social entrepreneurs and a series of talks on common legal matters one would need to address when setting up, running and expanding a social enterprise.

Under this initiative, regular social enterprise legal clinics will be organised. Project legaleSE will also provide an avenue for our corporate lawyers to provide pro bono legal assistance for community impact initiatives, and taps into a greater pool of potential lawyer volunteers for pro bono work.

LawLink: What is your best memory of law school?

Mr Lok: I have lots of great memories of my four years in law school. Unsurprisingly, many of them are not of experiences at the lecture halls or tutorial rooms! If I have to choose one that stands out, it will have to be the memory of the fund raising project our class undertook in our final year. It was a tradition then for every graduating class to organise a fund raising event. This was usually a class walk. Well, we thought we should do something a little different.

Given that there was then a sudden interest in middle and long distance running among some members of my class, we decided that we should do a fundraising run instead. We would pledge, as a class, to run a cumulative total of 1,000 laps around the varsity track. In the event that we did not hit the targeted number of laps, we told our supporters that we would return all the funds collected. That challenge became known as the “1,000 Lap Run”.  

On the day of the run, we assembled early in the morning at the Varsity Sports Complex. We had representatives from NUSSU to audit the counting process to make sure the lap count was accurately taken and recorded, we had an ambulance on standby in case a classmate had an enthusiasm for the race that is not matched by his fitness! The idea was for the run to continue non-stop until the 1,000 lap figure was reached; and at any one time, a runner would be on the track carrying the class flag.

Our class never felt more united than we did that day. Those who could run, ran. Those who could not run, helped in other ways. Many ran on for much longer than they thought they could. One gallant male classmate huffed and puffed through almost 40 laps and then, practically limping over to the registration table at the end of his run, pointed to his then girlfriend (another classmate) and proudly proclaimed to the highly impressed score keepers, “These laps are for her. I will do mine later.”

How we cheered him; he was never quite known to be a runner, but we saw what the cause of charity and romance could do to move not just a man’s heart, but also his athletic bones and muscles! Meanwhile, the classmates continued to turn up at the tracks and chalked up the laps at a furious pace. The 1000th lap was achieved at 3.27pm that afternoon and the last lap, at 6.10pm in the evening. Altogether, our class runners were on the track continuously for 7 hours 20 mins, and during that time, chalked up 1,630 laps, well above our target. We got to keep the funds raised, and the great memories too! It was certainly an event to enjoy, and to remember!

LawLink: If you could change one thing about your law school days, what would it be?

Mr Lok: In my final year, I was fortunate enough to be selected for a scholarship/exchange programme that included some 50 other undergraduate scholars from the Asia Pacific region. The programme was offered by a Japanese multi national corporation and the faculty was initially lukewarm to the prospect of my missing some crucial term time to attend the programme in Tokyo. I am glad I persisted and was finally given their blessings to attend the two-month programme, which also included our enrolment at one of the universities in Tokyo. Interacting with the participants and fellow students at the university opened my eyes to the diversity in cultures, philosophies and thoughts among my peers. It was a wonderful and uplifting experience. And of course, being exposed to onsen, sushi, pachinko machines, bowing and other unique aspects of Japanese culture was a blessing I remain thankful for to this day.

In those days, such overseas exchange opportunities were rare. I am glad that the varsity’s stand in this regard has changed tremendously and today, our law undergraduates have access to a mouth watering buffet of overseas exchange programmes at top international universities. If only such buffet spreads were also offered to law undergraduates 30 years ago!

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