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Lawyer, advocate for cats: New LawSoc president Adrian Tan vows to remain vocal on public issues via social media

SINGAPORE — Newly elected Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) president Adrian Tan has not been one to shy away from expressing his views on issues of public interest — from racism to vaccine mandates and discrimination against cats — on his social media platforms.

Lawyer, advocate for cats: New LawSoc president Adrian Tan vows to remain vocal on public issues via social media
Law Society president Adrian Tan believes that lawyers have a duty to “demystify the law for the public”.
  • Mr Tan succeeds Senior Counsel Gregory Vijayendran as LawSoc president on Jan 1
  • He has been vocal on issues of public interest — from racism to vaccine mandates and discrimination against cats
  • Mr Tan insists that he will continue to share his views on legal issues because he “believes in the curative powers of the law”
  • Lawyers, he added, must also push back against misinformation, to correct misconceptions about the law and lawyers

SINGAPORE — Newly elected Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) president Adrian Tan has not been one to shy away from expressing his views on issues of public interest — from racism to vaccine mandates and discrimination against cats — on his social media platforms.

Which is quite unlike past LawSoc presidents who were usually reticent on hot topics, given that the Legal Profession Act was tightened in 1986 to prevent LawSoc from commenting on matters the Government had not submitted to it, among other amendments. 

Just over a week ago, on Dec 23, Mr Tan took to LinkedIn to share his thoughts on social commenters who deemed that newly crowned badminton world champion Loh Kean Yew is not a “real Singaporean” because he was born in Penang. 

His post has gained more than 5,100 reactions and almost 300 comments.

And Mr Tan insists that he will continue to share his views on legal issues because he “believes in the curative powers of the law”.

“We joined this profession because we have faith that the law provides answers to many of society’s problems,” the 55-year-old partner and head of intellectual property and technology at TSMP Law Corporation said in a recent interview with TODAY. 

“The more the public understands the law, the better the public can use the law for its own good and appreciate the important role that the law plays in keeping Singapore safe and successful.”

He began his tenure as LawSoc president on Saturday (Jan 1), succeeding Senior Counsel Gregory Vijayendran, who is a commercial litigation partner at Rajah & Tann and the longest-serving LawSoc president, having served for five years.

Mr Tan, ​​who has 30 years of legal experience under his belt, leads a 21-member LawSoc council which Mr Vijayendran remains on as immediate past president. Besides his accomplishments in the legal field, Mr Tan was also the author of bestselling novels — The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook —  in the late 1980s. 

The LawSoc represents lawyers and maintains standards of the profession here.

Lawyers have a duty to “demystify the law for the public”, said Mr Tan, by spreading awareness of the law and legal issues, explaining them in simple terms, and demonstrating their application to daily issues.

Lawyers, he added, must also push back against misinformation in popular media, when misconceptions about the law and lawyers are being circulated.

“Whether in private or in public, we ought to speak up if any legal issues are wrongly portrayed,” said Mr Tan.

I want the Law Society to explore using LinkedIn, Telegram, Instagram or any kind of 'gram' to put lawyers in touch with each other regularly, which will also allow us to engage more effectively with the digital natives that our younger lawyers are.
Law Society president Adrian Tan

He is planning to use social media for other purposes, to “pivot away from the traditional means” which LawSoc has used to communicate with lawyers.

“I want the Law Society to explore using LinkedIn, Telegram, Instagram or any kind of 'gram' to put lawyers in touch with each other regularly, which will also allow us to engage more effectively with the digital natives that our younger lawyers are,” he quipped.

This is because the pandemic has deprived lawyers from gathering near the courts or their offices, which was where camaraderie was developed and lawyers would let their guard down, speak openly about work, and grow to understand each other, he said.

As the need for fellowship among lawyers remains, Mr Tan said that the power of social media ought to be harnessed to engage the community, enabling them to learn, discuss and connect with each other regardless of where they are located. 

To keep younger lawyers inspired, Mr Tan said that together with his colleagues at the LawSoc, they want to explore how they can give young lawyers a greater say in their work and in the industry, “as they are the ones with the enthusiasm and the ideas to lead us forward”.

“Younger lawyers tell me that they want more from their work. They do not mind giving their all,” he said.

“But they are not content with being a cog in a giant machine. They want to see that their hard work makes a difference, and improves society.”

THE GREAT RESIGNATION

On what the biggest challenges confronting the legal profession in Singapore are, Mr Tan noted that the world is now in the throes of what has been described as the Great Resignation.

“Singapore is not spared, and neither is the legal industry,” he said.

Thus, LawSoc's priority is to seek to understand the reasons behind the departure of lawyers. They are doing so by conducting studies, speaking with members and experts, and looking at the experience in other countries.

“This is the time for openness and innovation. Singapore’s success is founded on agility and adaptability. And the Singaporean lawyer typifies that,” said Mr Tan, adding that the society will work with the courts and the Ministry of Law to develop new and more cost-effective ways of practising law that will “transform the legal career into a sustainable calling”.

“We want to improve access to justice for all levels of society, while enabling our lawyers to combine work life and home life satisfactorily.”

Being an emotional labourer is draining. After years of practice, many lawyers reach a crisis point in their career.
Adrian Tan

Mr Tan describes lawyers as “emotional labourers”.

On top of dispensing legal advice, the lawyer is a “hired friend” who provides a listening ear, or a shoulder to lean on, spending time with the client to gain trust and understand their situation.

“Being an emotional labourer is draining,” he said. “After years of practice, many lawyers reach a crisis point in their career. They have a good idea of how rewarding their job can be, on good days, and how demanding it can be, on bad days. The question for them is: Will the good days outweigh the bad?”

Lawyers leave when they see “too many bad days and too few good days”, and finding ways to reverse this is LawSoc’s job, he said.

To this end, programmes to promote health and wellness are in place and there are discussions on how to improve workplaces. Mr Tan added that technology will also be used to free lawyers from mundane tasks, so that they are free to attend to their clients.

“Lawyers are a national resource. There are only around 6,000 of us in Singapore, and we are put to work in every aspect of life, from personal to commercial. Whether it is business deals, family issues or community problems, lawyers are there to provide counsel, answer questions and solve problems,” he said.

Mr Tan's aim is to ensure that lawyers here continue to thrive, by finding ways to motivate and inspire them to continue their work, training them in legal skills, and looking out for their physical and mental wellbeing.

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