Opening of the Singapore Academy of Law
The Honourable The Chief Justice Wee Chong Jin

The Honourable The Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew and Mrs Lee, Members of the Senate and Members of the Academy,

We are gathered here today in these historical and impressive surroundings for a very special occasion. Today marks the Official Opening of the Singapore Academy of Law and will go down in the annals of our history as a milestone in the development of the law and the legal profession in Singapore.

The Academy of Law was established by the Singapore Academy of Law Act which was passed by Parliament on 11th August 1988 and came into force on 1st November 1988. The functions of the Academy are spelt out in section 4 of the Act and include the following:

(1) promoting and maintaining high standards of conduct and learning of the legal profession in Singapore;

(2) advancing and disseminating knowledge of the laws and promoting research and scholarship;

(3) providing continuing legal education; and promoting good relations and social interaction amongst members and with law students and persons concerned in the administration of law and justice in Singapore.

As can be seen, this Academy has a very wide and ambitious brief and it will require considerable vision and commitment of all its members for these goals to be achieved. The Academy is the first institution in this part of the world which gathers together the various branches of the legal profession in a country. These branches can be conveniently classified as the Judiciary, the private practitioners, the Government Legal Service, the corporate lawyers and the academics in the tertiary institutions.

For a long time in Singapore these branches have developed separately. Although as individuals, members of one branch do interact with members of the other branches, and do share their experiences and expertise, there was no single institution which could gather together the sum total of their collective experiences and expertise in the law. Neither was there any institution to facilitate social and professional interaction between members of these branches of the profession.

The Academy of Law fills this void. As in institution, the Academy will provide a focus where all persons involved in the study, practice or administration of the law in Singapore can gather to enrich and enhance the knowledge and the development of the law in Singapore through the sharing of experience and expertise. It will also, in accordance with the brief, enable an orderly induction of new members into the study and practice of the law. More than that, it will enable all persons involved in the law to speak with one voice to those who are responsible for the affairs of our country.

The Academy will strive to provide a comfortable venue and genial surroundings for all its members to interact socially, regardless of the branch of the profession they come from. It is hoped that in time, all members of the legal profession in Singapore will come to regard the Academy as their very own institution and will also come to regard its premises as a natural place to relax, meet friends and also to enrich themselves in the law and contribute to its development.

Given its high and noble ideals, whether or not the Academy would succeed in achieving its objective only time will tell but if the members give their unstinting support, success will not be far down the road. It is encouraging to note that since its inception, the Academy has developed rapidly and now is undertaking numerous activities. Its may Sub-Committees are actively engaged in various fields such as continuing legal education, law reform and the dissemination of information about developments in the law. A great number of persons have committed themselves towards working on these aspects of the Academy’s functions. The enthusiasm which they have shown and the time and effort which they have gratuitously expended in these activities augurs well for the Academy. The response to the Academy’s activities, particularly those relating to legal education have been extremely good and has been better than the modest expectations of the organisers. It is particularly heartening to note that most of the participants in the Academy’s activities and the users of its facilities are the younger members of the Academy. These persons would, in time, be the leaders of not only the Academy but also their particular branches of the legal profession.

Given the progress which has been made at this early stage of the Academy’s life, I have no reason to doubt that the Academy will succeed in attaining its goals and will in time develop to be the most important institution for the legal profession in Singapore, an institution which is the hub of the profession life of every lawyer in Singapore.

We are fortunate indeed this evening to have the Prime Minister officiate at the official opening of our Academy. The Prime Minister has been instrumental in the birth of this Academy. Without his concern and support for the legal profession in Singapore, this Academy would not have come about. It is therefore with gratitude that we welcome him as our guest-of-honour at this opening ceremony of our Academy. We will also shortly be conferring on him the Fellowship of the Academy, a distinction which all of us here today would agree that he richly deserves. The Prime Minister will no doubt continue to maintain an active interest in the affairs of the legal profession in Singapore and in the progress of this academy. It is for us, as the members of this Academy, to match what he has given to us and to ensure that the lofty and noble ideals and goals which we have set for ourselves are achieved.

I now invite the Prime Minister to declare open the Singapore Academy of Law.