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Speech by Ms Eleanor Wong, General Editor at the launch of Modern Advocacy: Perspectives from Singapore

1. I’m mindful of the good advice of Ludwig Wittgenstein: “What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about, we must pass over in silence.”

2. Let me therefore restrict myself to one subject I can definitely talk about. Giving credit where credit is due. And, of course, thanks -- to the very many people whose work is embodied in the book in your hands. In giving thanks (although perhaps not in some of the more personal observations below), I know I speak on behalf of my fellow general editors, Lok Vi Ming and Vinodh Coomaraswamy.

3. First, thanks to a dear member of the legal community who is no longer with us. This project was mooted more than five years ago by the SAL Professional Affairs Committee, then led by the late Justice Lai Kew Chai. The idea was to have a book that would contain the distilled wisdom and craft of our litigation pantheon. The idea was timely and relevant. The question was how to pull all of that together in a single book. Although I was not on the editorial team then, I remember attending a meeting with the untiring Serene Wee at the old Supreme Court restaurant to discuss how this massive idea could be effected. One suggestion was to get an author/writer to interview members of the bar and to collate their ideas into a book. This would allow the widest range of contributions but would not be easy to co-ordinate.

4. So, credit and admiration must go to JA VK Rajah. Once he decided that the project needed to get cracking, there was no turning back. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a “request” from him knows what I mean. His energy and his ability to marshall the contributors were crucial in turning the idea into reality.

5. Third, warmest thanks to the SAL secretariat for the incredible administrative support and the way they kept the project on schedule. I would never have guessed before this that diplomacy and dictatorship were synonyms.

6. Finally, most significantly, relieved thanks to the contributors, almost all of whom met our deadlines. With such a distinguished group of contributors, arguably most of the work was done when they said yes. Certainly, for this editor, reading the chapters as they rolled in has been fascinating. The content is, as expected, comprehensive and relevant. Interestingly, each chapter has a distinct voice that reflects its author. The different styles on display demonstrate vividly that effective advocacy can come in many distinct flavours. For younger attorneys who consult this book for tips and advice, I trust this gives hope -- that they too can each find their own distinctive voice and style. Yet, in the midst of the creative variation, two broad themes resounded consistently regardless of the topic. First, the need to be thorough, prepared and to work hard. This will come as no surprise to any serious advocate but will no doubt disappoint those still searching for a magic bullet to success. Advocacy is a rigorous calling. The second broad theme that emerged is the importance of civility, ethics and a strong sense of responsibility. Again, this should come as no surprise, and anyone thinking otherwise deserves to be disabused. Advocacy is a high calling. I commend this book to all who aspire to be worth of that calling.

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