NAVIGATING 2020 TOGETHER: A YEAR OF CHALLENGES, CHANGES AND REFLECTION
2020 has been a challenging year for all of us. The sudden onset of the global pandemic placed a heavy demand on our members to adapt and respond to the fast-changing needs of the economy, our clients, and of policymakers. These challenges and changes—unprecedented in scale and speed —called on our members to draw upon a strong spirit of professionalism, resilience, and agility. Indeed, many in our profession have risen above and beyond to meet the challenges, and these collective efforts have been indispensable in ensuring the continued provision of essential legal services to those in need, without compromising the safety of those who interact with our justice system.
SWIFT RESPONSES TO AN UNPRECEDENTED CHALLENGE
The Academy has endeavoured to stand in solidarity with the profession and to meaningfully support our members during these challenging times. In April, the Academy surveyed practitioners and in-house counsel to better understand how different parts of the profession have been impacted by the pandemic. Guided by the responses, the Academy tailored its support packages and services so that it could offer suitable support to the profession. The broad approach taken comprised two main prongs: (a) to assist individuals in meeting their professional developmental needs; and (b) to help law firms reduce costs and streamline work processes.
In this regard, all the Academy’s programmes—including its workshops, seminars, and conferences—are now conducted online. These online platforms have enabled our members and other participants to access a diverse menu of curated programmes that explore the pandemic’s impact on specialised areas of legal practice including restructuring, data protection and aviation. In February, the Academy also partnered LinkedIn Learning to offer members a free, flexible, and carefully curated online learning curriculum by means of which they could meet up to half of their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. This also helped ensure that the critical platforms for learning, interaction, and exchange of ideas between members of our profession would continue to operate notwithstanding the pandemic.
The Academy’s response to the pandemic was complemented by similar action taken by its subsidiaries. Among other initiatives, the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI) launched a COVID-19 news aggregator to keep members abreast of the pandemic’s impact on legal and judicial systems in the Asia Pacific region. Further, in response to the disruption caused by the “circuit breaker” period to the courts’ operations, the Singapore Mediation Centre (SMC) partnered with the Supreme Court under the “SGUnited Mediation Initiative” to offer litigants an option of settling their disputes through mediation amicably, quickly, and at no charge to the parties. In all, 106 cases have thus far been referred to the initiative, and we are grateful for the assistance of all the volunteer mediators who are among the best in our profession.
STEADFAST PURSUIT OF OUR CORE OBJECTIVES
While the response to the pandemic has been a key aspect of the Academy’s work this year, the promotion of Singapore law and legal services remains an area of strategic focus for the Academy. In this respect, I am pleased to note that the Venture Capital Investment Model Agreements (VIMA) Handbook was launched in May last year, extending a practical guide for founders, investors, and lawyers involved in the start-up and venture capital (VC) space. The Handbook, building on other VIMA documents unveiled in 2018, provides guidance for VC deals and will facilitate growth in an important area during this critical period of economic change.
ABLI has also progressed steadily towards its mission of promoting harmonisation of Asia’s business laws. Indeed, the ABLI’s Data Privacy Project, which comprehensively sets out the data privacy and data protection frameworks in the region and facilitates their convergence, was showcased at the prestigious Paris Peace Forum this year. The recognition of the significance of this project is timely, as the smooth and secure flow of personal data is no doubt likely to become even more critical in the post-pandemic environment.
The Academy remains a leader in the creation, organisation, and dissemination of legal knowledge for the profession. Notably, in July, LawNet launched a repository of 66 commercial precedents. Available to existing subscribers at no extra cost, the precedent repository is an important step towards assisting members involved in transactional work. The effort covers areas as diverse as employment law and mergers and acquisitions, and has been positively received, with more than 11,000 visits within the first month of its launch. Initiatives like these complement the Academy’s traditional publishing efforts, which separately saw 15 new titles published last year.
STEERING THE ACADEMY THROUGH AND AFTER THE PANDEMIC
The Academy was able to respond nimbly to the pandemic partly as a result of a conscientious effort to restructure and optimise its internal organisation and infrastructure, with an eye towards the greater utilisation of technology in its processes. These changes will continue under the leadership of Mr Rama Tiwari, who will assume the role of Chief Executive in early February this year.
Mr Tiwari receives the baton from current Chief Executive Ms Serene Wee, who will retire after 27 years of service at the Academy with utmost distinction. On behalf of the Senate, I would like to express our deepest appreciation for her outstanding stewardship and dedication over the years. Her efforts have profoundly shaped the Academy’s vision, nurtured strong and lasting ties with key stakeholders both within and outside Singapore, and laid strong foundations for the continuation of the Academy’s efforts in supporting our members and the profession at large. Serene has agreed, at my request, to remain as a Senior Advisor in a part-time capacity to assist the Executive Board and me as we continue with our transition as an organisation.
Lastly, I wish to express my gratitude to our members and staff for their commitment, hard work, and unstinting support. It has been an unusual and difficult year, but together we have made significant strides in responding to the immediate and longer-term challenges faced by the profession. Thank you, and I look forward to your continued support.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
President, Singapore Academy of Law
Our Year In Numbers
FY2019/20 was a busy year for SAL and its subsidiaries. During the period under review, the SAL Group handled a big portfolio of projects, among them the digitising of its statutory services, the pushing of boundaries of learning and development and the growing of IP assets through enhancements to legal publishing and LawNet.
SAL members as at 31 March 2020
set aside to help members through COVID-19
members stand to benefit from 2021 fee waiver
firms benefitted from business process improvement packages offered through Lighten Up!
Supreme Court cases
State Courts cases
pages published as unreported judgments on LawNet
SEMINARS AND CONFERENCES
MEDIATION AND ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
adjudication cases administered
3 Senior Counsel appointed in 2020: Mr Murali Pillai SC, Mr Mohamad Faizal SC, Mr Jason Chan SC
maritime and shipping lawyers accredited under Specialist Accreditation Scheme
Joseph Grimberg Young Advocate Award 2019: Mr Sui Yi Siong
undergraduate scholarships presented
Technology and innovation continue to drive change in both the Academy and the wider legal profession. We will keep up our efforts to help members, especially those from small- and medium-sized law firms, adopt technology and explore innovation and transformation.
The Digital Transformation Office, led by Deputy Chief Executive and Chief Transformation and Information Officer Rama Tiwari, was created to support the transformation of both the Academy and the profession.
Since its inception in 1990, LawNet has become one of the most ubiquitous and utilised legal research platforms in Singapore. A series of enhancements scheduled for roll out in 2021 will enable LawNet to offer an enriched content set and improved features and functionalities. Moving forward, LawNet aims to evolve to make practice more convenient and intuitive for the legal profession, progressively incorporating practice tools and integrating adjacent SAL services such as Online Dispute Resolution and e-learning.
LawNet through the years:
THE LONG ROAD TO LAWNET
In conjunction with its 30th anniversary, LawNet featured stories that traced its history and evolution. These were presented in anticipation of LawNet’s next iteration, which will be launched in the coming months.
IMPROVING LEGAL RESEARCH
LawNet launched a set of 66 commercial precedents, allowing lawyers access to precedent templates in areas as diverse as employment law, e-commerce law, IP, and mergers and acquisitions. Contributors comprise leading local and international law firms, including TSMP Law Corporation, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Drew & Napier, Allen & Gledhill, Rajah & Tann and Pinsent Masons. This precedent database is made available, and will be updated and enhanced, at no extra cost to the subscriber.
“Commercial Precedents on LawNet levels the playing field: small firms, medium firms and large firms alike can learn from one another. It will make Singapore a more competitive legal market."
– Stefanie Yuen-Thio
Joint Managing Partner, TSMP Law
SAL is working with third parties such as the courts to develop APIs that can be used together with the new LawNet platform.
The first of these creates APIs for billing data to be passed from eLitigation to practice management systems of law firms—a move that simplifies firms’ accounting and billing processes. To promote and drive adoption of APIs, SAL is also working on creating and publishing data standards. SAL published its first set of data standards in 2019 for representing and exchanging unreported judgments and Singapore Law Reports. The next standard to be published later will tackle eLitigation billing data.
SUPPORTING COURTS OF THE FUTURE
The Academy remains a steadfast partner of the courts as they enhance their service delivery. This partnership has led to an improved user interface for eLitigation and rigorous testing of the new SG Courts Services portal and SG Courts app. The Academy also serves as an important bridge between the profession and the courts, conveying feedback and views on new initiatives.
Crystallising Thought Leadership
As a knowledge hub for the legal community, we acquire and curate knowledge and disseminate it through multiple platforms. Partnering stakeholders, we develop programmes that strengthen skills and encourage experimentation and innovation.
Close to 1,200 attended the second run SAL’s signature law and tech conference. Themed “The Net Effect of Data: Commerce, Connectivity and Control”, it was held on 5 & 6 September 2019. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, delivered the event’s opening keynote.
THE BIG DEAL: DISPUTES IN ASIA
In conjunction with the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation, the Academy co-organised ‘The Big Deal’ forum. The series of three seminars looked at dispute management within Asia deal-making and was covered by Channel NewsAsia.
Predicting a growing demand for remote learning, the Academy rolled out curated online learning in partnership with LinkedIn in February 2020. This initiative enabled members to fulfil up to half their annual CPD requirements and was mapped against LIFTED competencies.
LIFTED GLOBAL NETWORK DISCUSSIONS
Seven of these online discussions were held during the period reviewed. The 90-minute sessions invited members to share observations and best practices in the education, professional training and lifelong development of legal and allied legal professionals.
In the period reported, the Academy’s Law Reform Committee published four new reports making recommendations for reform of the laws on trusts, insurance and arbitration, as well as user-friendly guidance on key issues for consumers and businesses when engaging or being engaged for construction work. It also co-authored a white paper on “Private international law aspects of smart derivatives contracts utilizing DLT”, which was recently ranked ‘highly commended’ in the ‘Thought Leadership and Social Responsibility’ category of the Financial Times Innovative Lawyers Asia Pacific Awards. That paper reflected the Committee’s growing focus on providing thought leadership on emerging areas of law, something it has continued through 2020 with the publication of, among others, three reports addressing the impact of robotics and Artificial Intelligence on the law.
Championing Singapore Abroad
We promote Singapore as a leading legal hub by marketing Singapore law as the governing law for cross-border contracts and Singapore as a centre for resolving disputes.
GROWING THE VENTURE CAPITAL ECOSYSTEM
Start-ups and investors can access practical and easy-to-understand information about the venture capital process thanks to the VIMA Handbook, which was launched by Second Minister for Law Mr Edwin Tong SC in May 2020.
The handbook and the VIMA forms complement an effort to grow the use of Singapore law in global venture capital deals, which are increasingly being driven from the Republic.
Two model constitutions were also developed for private open-ended and closed-end funds to support the onboarding of the Variable Capital Company (VCC) framework. Launched by the Monetary Authority of Singapore in January 2020, the VCC framework is expected to attract more funds into Singapore and in turn, grow demand for Singapore’s legal services.
“We are not stopping here. VIMA 2.0 is in the pipeline and will kick off after this launch, further enhancing support for start-ups and VCs. I look forward to seeing a new, improved version.”
– Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong
At the launch of the VIMA Handbook
DRIVING LEGAL CONVERGENCE
The Academy’s efforts to drive the convergence of business laws in Asia are gathering momentum and gaining recognition at home and abroad. For the second year in a row, the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI)’s Data Privacy Project was discussed in Hogan Lovells’ Asia Pacific Data Protection and Cyber Security Guide 2019. ABLI is a subsidiary of the Academy and is also studying the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Asia. This project was cited by members of the Chinese judiciary as an impetus to promote the signing of memoranda of guidance between courts in the region to promote the recognition and enforcement of each other’s judgments.
A FRENCH CONNECTION
Held on 17 January 2020, the inaugural France – Singapore Legal Symposium raised awareness of French and Singapore laws and promoted the states as key platforms for doing business in Europe, Asia and beyond. It also cemented Paris and Singapore as global investment, arbitration and innovation legal hubs and explored future collaborations between both sides. Over 300 attendees were present, including The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon of Singapore and France’s Ambassador to Singapore, His Excellency Marc Abensour.
We actively promote programmes that provide opportunities for our members to engage and interact with others beyond the legal profession.
PREVIEW OF A LIFE IN THE LAW
The Junior College Law Programme provides young adults with a valuable glimpse into a legal career. The 11th edition of the programme ran from 18 to 29 November 2019 and attracted 196 students, who heard from 33 speakers working in various capacities in the law. It also featured Second Minister for Law Mr Edwin Tong SC alongside the deans of Singapore’s three law schools.
ENHANCING ACCESS TO JUSTICE
The Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS), with the support of the Academy, enhances access to justice by providing legal assistance to vulnerable communities. In 2019, 229 volunteer lawyers took on at least one CLAS case and 40 volunteer lawyers served as lead lawyers, providing basic legal advice and making recommendations on the merits of each application.
A SECOND CHANCE
The fourth run of SAL’s annual charity futsal event, the CJ’s Cup, was held on 27 July 2019 with 19 teams taking to the pitch. The event raised $110,000 for the YRF-SAL Skills Training Assistance to Restart Bursary which provides financial assistance to detainees who wish to further their skills training and education after their release from prison.
TELLING THE TALES OF YESTERDAY
Articles based on the Legal Heritage Committee’s oral history interviews are also well-received and foster deeper appreciation for the contributions and experiences of pioneering legal luminaries. One such article, A Stately Goodbye, uses oral history interviews to piece together the 44-year heritage of the State Courts Complex. It relies on the words of Colonel Tan Wee Kian, who is in charge of getting the Subordinate Courts—as the State Courts were known then—up and running.
“There were even talks to expand the courts away from the city, with facilities in Sembawang and East Coast.”
– Colonel (COL) Tan Wee Kian
Excerpt from “A Stately Goodbye”
About SINGAPORE ACADEMY OF LAW
SINGAPORE, THE LEGAL HUB OF ASIA
DRIVING LEGAL EXCELLENCE THROUGH THOUGHT LEADERSHIP, WORLD-CLASS INFRASTRUCTURE AND SOLUTIONS
The 46 members of the Senate oversee the management of SAL as well as its properties. Comprising esteemed members of the judiciary, legal service, Bar and academia, the Senate is led by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who serves as its President. The Senate comprises the following committees (click each committee to learn more):
- Executive Board
- Audit Committee
- Board of Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public
- Specialist Accreditation Board
- Board of Directors, Singapore Mediation Centre
- Board of Governors, Asian Business Law Institute
- Board of Directors, SAL Ventures Ltd
In light of COVID-19, the Senate held its first-ever virtual meeting 0n 24 August 2020:
MEMBERS OF THE SAL SENATE
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon | Attorney-General Lucien Wong SC | Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong, JA |
Justice Judith Prakash, JA | Justice Tay Yong Kwang, JA | Justice Steven Chong, JA | Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC
Professor Simon Chesterman | Professor Leslie Chew SC | Professor Goh Yihan | Senior Judge Chao Hick Tin |
Justice Choo Han Teck | Justice Belinda Ang Saw Ean | Justice Woo Bih Li
Justice Lee Seiu Kin | Justice Chan Seng Onn | Justice Quentin Loh | Justice Vinodh Coomaraswamy | Justice Tan Siong Thye | Justice See Kee Oon | Justice Chua Lee Ming
Justice Kannan Ramesh | Justice Valerie Thean | Justice Hoo Sheau Peng | Justice Debbie Ong | Justice Aedit Abdullah |
Justice Pang Khang Chau | Justice Audrey Lim
Justice Ang Cheng Hock | Justice Vincent Hoong | Justice Dedar Singh Gill | Justice Tan Puay Boon | Justice Mavis Chionh |
Judicial Commissioner Mohan S/O Ramamirtha Subbaraman | Judicial Commisioner Andre Francis Maniam
Deputy Attorney-General Lionel Yee SC | Deputy Attorney-General Hri Kumar Nair SC | Solicitor-General Kwek Mean Luck SC | Mr Giam Chin Toon SC | Mr Davinder Singh SC | Mr George Lim SC | Professor Yeo Tiong Min SC (honoris causa)
Professor Loy Wee Loon SC (honoris causa) | Mr Yeong Zee Kin | Mr Wong Taur-Jiun | Mr Gregory Tan
The work of SAL is largely driven by the SAL Executive Board which focuses on five key areas: Legal Education, Legal Publishing & Knowledge, Legal Development, Legal Technology and Corporate Development and Services.
MANAGEMENT TEAM AND SECRETARIAT
SAL’s Chief Executive oversees its day-to-day running. Each of the Academy’s three subsidiaries is managed by their respective directors.
GROUP TECH AND TRANSFORMATION CLUSTER
Key Executive: Mr Rama Tiwari, Deputy Chief Executive
The cluster explores processes and strategies that will refresh the delivery of the Academy’s products and services. It also drives much of SAL’s tech activities and oversees the management and development of LawNet.
- Legal Technology Committee
- Legal Research Committee
- Commercial Precedents Committee
- LawNet Transformation Working Group
- Innovation Advisory Board
- IT Security Steering Committee
CORPORATE DEVELOPMENT AND STATUTORY SERVICES
Key Executive: Mr Paul Neo, Chief Operating Officer
The cluster comprises Corporate Development and Statutory Services. The Corporate Development arm ensures the smooth running of the Academy’s internal corporate machinery comprising finance, business partnering and risk management, organisational development and human resource, business process re-engineering, and corporate communications. Statutory Services oversees member relations, authentication services, the appointment of Commissioner for Oaths and Notaries Public, Stakeholding, the SAL Wills Registry and legalisation services.
- Corporate Development and Services Cluster Committee
- Board of Commissioners for Oaths and Notaries Public
- Audit Committee
- Budget Committee
- Investment Committee
- Staff Committee A
- Staff Committee B
- Corporate Social Responsibility Sub-committee
- SAL Annual Lecture Organising Committee
- Membership Sub-committee
LEGAL PUBLISHING AND KNOWLEDGE
Key Executive: Mr Bala Shumugam, Senior Director, Legal Publishing and Knowledge
With a view to growing the knowledge of the profession, this cluster publishes and disseminates primary and secondary content related to the law, past and present. This is done through the journals and books of Academy Publishing as well as its research portal LawNet.
- Legal Publishing and Knowledge Cluster Committee
- Commissioning Panel
- Council of Law Reporting
- Publications Committee
- Legal Heritage Committee
Key Executive: Mr Sriram Chakravarthi, Senior Director, Legal Development and Chief Legal Counsel (up to 31 December 2020)
Ms Anita Parkash, Deputy Director (covering)
Developing Singapore’s legal profession and recognising its stars—that is the raison d’etre of the Legal Development cluster. It is involved in the appointment of Senior Counsel, Specialist Accreditation of lawyers, Professional Affairs and the Promotion of Singapore Law, among other areas.
- Legal Development Cluster Committee
- Senior Counsel Selection Committee
- SAL Awards Selection Committee
- Overseas Attachment Selection Committee
- Law Reform Committee
- Professional Affairs Committee
- Promotion of Singapore Law Committee
- Criminal Legal Assistance Steering Committee
Key Executive: Ms Anita Parkash, Deputy Director, Legal Education
Through virtual and offline conferences, seminars and workshops, the Legal Education cluster develops the professional capabilities of the sector. The cluster is guided by its own Legal Industry Framework for Training and Education (LIFTED), which charts a course forward for the profession.
- Legal Education Cluster Committee
- Junior College Law Programme Organising Committee
SINGAPORE MEDIATION CENTRE (SUBSIDIARY)
Key Executive: Mr Ban Jiun Ean, Executive Director
Established in 1997, the Singapore Mediation Centre’s primary functions include the provision of mediation services, as well as training in negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution.
ASIAN BUSINESS LAW INSTITUTE (SUBSIDIARY)
Key Executives: Professor Yeo Tiong Min SC (honoris causa), Academic Director
Mr Mark Fisher, Deputy Executive Director
Since 2016, the Institute has been initiating, conducting and facilitating research that guides Asian legal development and promotes the convergence of its business laws.
SAL VENTURES LTD (SUBSIDIARY)
Key Executive: Mr Rama Tiwari, Executive Director
Founded in 2017, SAL Ventures supports the development of future law-related enterprises that encourage innovation and facilitate legal tech investments.
REPORT OF THE INDEPENDENT AUDITOR ON THE SUMMARY FINANCIAL STATEMENTS
To the Members of The Singapore Academy of Law
The summary financial statements of The Singapore Academy of Law (the “Academy”) and its subsidiaries (the “Group”), which comprise the summary consolidated balance sheet of the Group and summary balance sheet of the Academy as at 31 March 2020, the summary consolidated income and expenditure statement and summary consolidated statement of comprehensive income of the Group, and the summary income and expenditure statement and summary statement of comprehensive income of the Academy for the financial year then ended, and related notes, are derived from the audited financial statements of the Academy and its subsidiaries for the year ended 31 March 2020.
In our opinion, the accompanying summary financial statements are consistent, in all material respects, with the audited financial statements of the Academy and its subsidiaries for the year ended 31 March 2020 from which they are derived and comply with the requirements of Section 21 of the Singapore Academy of Law Act (Cap. 294A, 1997 Revised Edition) (the “Act”).
Summary Financial Statements
The summary financial statements do not contain all the disclosures required by the Financial Reporting Standards in Singapore. Reading the summary financial statements and the auditor’s report thereon, therefore, is not a substitute for reading the audited financial statements and the auditor’s report thereon.
The Audited Financial Statements and Our Report Thereon
We expressed an unmodified audit opinion on the audited financial statements in our report dated 24 August 2020.
Management’s Responsibility for the Summary Financial Statements
Management is responsible for the preparation of the summary financial statements in accordance with Section 21 of the Act. In preparing the summary financial statements, Section 21 of the Act requires that the summary financial statements be derived from the annual financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2020 and be in such form and contain such information as may be specified by rules made thereunder applicable to summary financial statements.
Our responsibility is to express an opinion on whether the summary financial statements are consistent, in all material respects, with the audited financial statements based on our procedures, which were conducted in accordance with Singapore Standard on Auditing (SSA) 810 (Revised), Engagements to Report on Summary Financial Statements.
Public Accountants and Chartered Accountants
Singapore, 24 August 2020