The Honourable The Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong
Launch of ACADEMY PUBLISHING and Ethics and Professional Responsibility: A Code for the Advocate and Solicitor
Friday, 18 May 2007
SPEECH OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE
1. Today, the Singapore Academy of Law starts on a new phase in its development. Since the Academy became self-sufficient financially, it has expanded and improved its services to its members in many areas of legal studies, especially in making effective legal research materials affordable and readily accessible – mainly through LawNet, which today reaches 70% of the profession. Before then, when we were anxiously looking for financial resources to carry out the statutory functions of the Academy, I had even suggested that the Academy set up a bookshop to sell law books to practitioners and students since there was a real likelihood that we would get the support of the majority of consumers of law books. The suggestion did not take off for lack of support.
2. But, today, we are witnessing the fruition of another idea, that of publishing law books and legal texts. Publishing is certainly more prestigious and better regarded in the educational and academic world. You may be wondering why the Academy is venturing into a business that is already well served by established law publishers and online law materials. However, we have good reasons for doing so. First, textbooks perform a function which cannot be easily displaced by online materials, even online textbooks and legal databases. I am convinced that text books will continue to have an edge over screen texts in terms of convenience and efficiency in providing access to the law in a distilled and easily digestible form. Second, local textbooks will serve an extremely useful purpose of disseminating Singapore law in a digested and readable form. In this connection, I wish to make some observations on the importance to the legal services sector of academics who take the trouble to write law texts.
3. I am given to understand that in local academic circles, general textbooks on the law are given a lower place in the pantheon of intellectual accomplishments. They are regarded as lower order academic materials and have a lower value than, for example, monographs or articles on esoteric areas of law or, to adopt a buzz expression, cutting-edge research in the law. In my view, this is misplaced as there is room for both high-flown academic and highly practical legal works. Each has an equally important role in the development of the law. Theoretical works are desirable but, in the daily life of the law, I would say that, as a general rule, a well-written textbook which sets out the law clearly and comprehensively for the user performs a more immediate, and therefore, more valuable societal role in the administration of justice. It is, therefore, my hope that the efforts of the academics who author law books and legal texts will be given due recognition by those who decide on their career advancement.
4. Today is an important day for the Academy, as well as for the legal profession, and I hope for the two law schools. We are here to mark the launch of Academy Publishing, a new division within the Academy that has been set up recently to publish books and other texts on the law of Singapore (and Malaysia, where the source of Malaysian law is the same as that of Singapore law). The objectives of the division are threefold: first, to provide affordable legal materials to the legal profession (including corporate counsel), law academics, law students, and not least, the judiciary in Singapore; secondly, to provide an alternative avenue to the academics in our two law schools to publish their writings and thereby to encourage them to produce more works; and thirdly, to disseminate the laws of Singapore to a wider public. In connection with the third objective, I would like to announce that in future we, the Judges, would like counsel who wish to cite court decisions in support of their arguments to give priority to Singapore court decisions if the relevant points of law have already been considered by our courts. This is not a nationalistic call to arms, but a practice will help us considerably to build up, over the years, a large body of local jurisprudence. Of course, counsel is free to cite other case by way of comparison with or criticism of local decisions.
5. It is not the intention of Academy Publishing to become a purely commercial publishing house. Profit is not its aim. It is more important that we create a learning environment in which an academic or a practitioner who wishes to increase the body of knowledge of our laws and to share his knowledge with the profession and the public in a permanent form, like a book, knows that the Academy will be there to help him to do so. Our priority in the next few years will be to publish books on areas of law that fulfil practice and student needs, but other kinds of legal texts will also be welcome. To meet these needs, the Academy has set up a Commissioning Panel to identify the titles for publication and the authors to write them. The Panel is chaired by Justice Andrew Phang. The Panel has already drawn up a plan for Academy Publishing to produce two series of books: the Law Practice Series and the Monographs Series. They have drawn up a list of the titles for the Law Practice Series and have also secured commitments from the authors invited to write the books. Many of these authors are here today, and I take this opportunity to thank them for agreeing to write. This is really a worthy cause for the legal services sector and the development of Singapore law. Academy Publishing will do its best to reward your efforts with satisfactory sales, subsequent editions and due recognition.
6. The first work to be published under the auspices of Academy Publishing is one which I selected to start the Law Practice Series, namely, Ethics and Professional Responsibility: A Code for the Advocate and Solicitor. In view of the long-standing ethical problems faced by the legal profession, and in particular by a section of the Bar currently, it seemed somewhat odd to me that we did not have a convenient and an accessible source, such as a code, of the principles of professional ethics and conduct that our lawyers have to follow and to live by everyday of their professional lives. I felt that we really needed a vade mecum, and quickly too, for our lawyers, young and old, so that they would always be reminded of the ethical principles and practices on which would depend their public esteem and standing as a profession. Professor Jeffrey Pinsler, who is of course well known for his prolific writings on civil procedure, was specially invited to write this book by reason of his academic and practice background, and because this book is meant for all lawyers, who regularly encounter ethical and professional problems in the course of their work. It is also a book for law undergraduates so that they can have some idea of the kinds of ethical and professional issues that they may face when they become practising lawyers. That we are here this morning shows that we found the right person to write this book. So, on behalf of the Academy, I wish to thank Professor Pinsler for his tremendous effort in completing this work well within the time schedule given to him.
7. Of course, this book by itself cannot raise the standard of professional ethics and conduct among lawyers. It has to be read, and its contents digested and remembered or recalled whenever the occasion arises. So I hope that each practitioner should have a copy of this book on his table at all times to remind him of the high ethical standards the profession demands from him. Equally important, I also hope that our small and large law firms, but especially the large law firms, will support Academy Publishing by buying not one or two copies of the book to be shared by all the lawyers in the firm, but by providing to each lawyer a copy, or as many copies as they can afford in order to promote the worthy causes that I have mentioned earlier. To those who write, I say, thank you. To those who only read, I say, please buy.
8. To conclude: Academy Publishing hopes to remain in this business for a long time to pursue its three objectives. But, we need the help and support of every member of the legal community in order to succeed. To ensure that we have a good start in our new venture, and more importantly, to raise the standard of legal knowledge and practice of our future lawyers, I am happy to announce that the Academy will present each newly admitted advocate and solicitor at the coming Mass Call on 26 May 2007 with a complimentary copy of this book. In this way, I hope that they will always remember that concurrent with their lifelong journey in the law as ethical and responsible lawyers, they were armed literally with a definitive text to help them on the way.
9. I am therefore very pleased to join all of you this morning to launch Academy Publishing, and commend to you its first publication, Ethics and Professional Responsibility: A Code for the Advocate and Solicitor by Professor Jeffrey Pinsler.
CHAN SEK KEONG, CJ
Singapore Academy of Law
18 May 2007