Thursday, February 16, 2023 - 11:23

His experience drafting them with Justice Tay Yong Kwang and more recently, working on a new practice guide on them with Justice Chua Lee Ming


Justice Chua and Paul receiving a commemorative copy of Singapore Rules of Court - A Practice Guide from Justice Andrew Phang


There are few better people to drum up excitement for the new Rules of Court than Judge Paul Quan, the Executive Director and Acting Dean of the Singapore Judicial College. Like many, he first heard of the ambitious plans to transform the civil justice rules at the Opening of Legal Year in 2015, when The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon unveiled the mandate of the Civil Justice Commission that was to review the rules. But his involvement with the rules went one step further – he worked as the primary assistant to Justice Tay Yong Kwang, who chaired the Civil Justice Commission, assisting him and his Commission draft a completely new set of civil procedure rules from the ground up.

This 2.5-year process sparked his enthusiasm for the importance of procedural rules and the need for constant reform of the justice system. “Most people may think of rules as dry and dead. But when you work on them day in and day out, you begin to appreciate how crucial these rules are in making the process come alive for court users. They don’t exist merely for people to comply with them and fall in line; they have real implications for access to justice. Because if your rules are cumbersome, they will give rise to a justice system that is going to be less accessible in terms of procedure, process and costs.”

It should come as little surprise that Paul is passionate about access to justice: after all, he’s spent almost his entire career in public service. “I did spend a short stint in private practice. It was a good experience but ultimately not for me. During this time, I realised I was reminiscing a lot about my time in the service and how meaningful it was – willing the good of others,” he muses. This commitment to public service kept Paul going and he did not hesitate when asked to assist Justice Tay and his Commission rewrite a completely new set of civil procedural rules, which came into force last April after taking in stakeholder feedback from several public consultations.

As they took shape, the need for a guide became apparent. “And we foresaw a situation where the profession might respond, ‘Wow, this looks nothing like the rules that I’m familiar with. I will need some help getting started on how to navigate these new rules.’ We went to Chief Justice and he gave us his blessings to work on a title with Academy Publishing and the Singapore Judicial College. We are truly grateful that he has entrusted us with such a meaningful project.”

To be sure, there is no shortage of good academic texts on procedural rules and the civil justice system. “Some of these interpretive texts are regarded as hallowed authorities, but we wanted our title to bear authoritative commentaries that focus on what the rules are and what they are meant to do, authored by contributors who have been involved in the conceptualisation and implementation of the new rules,” says Paul, explaining the motivation behind the Singapore Rules of Court - A Practice Guide.


Launched last month, the compendium brings together 21 contributors, most of whom had lived and breathed the new rules before they came into effect last April. Contributors were guided by Justice Chua Lee Ming, who co-chaired the team implementing the new rules with former Justice Ang Cheng Hock, and Paul, as editor-in-chief and general editor, respectively. Besides being an authoritative text, the two editors were also keen for it to reflect the spirit of the new rules.

“From day one, Justice Tay set out to make the rules accessible. They were not only clear, succinct and free of legalese, but also gave the court and users a wide berth to achieve justice in every case.” The guide mirrors this, going so far as to be written largely in bullet points. “Justice Tay issued a challenge to Justice Chua and me – to write a practical guide that is equally digestible. Writing in point form was his original suggestion that we insisted on having when we embarked on this project,” adds Paul.

Only that way could this title be a guide that is truly practical to refer to both on the bench and in court. “You know those moments when you say, ‘Your Honour, if I could just have a minute’? And you literally have only a minute: with this text you can scan a couple of bullet points quickly and respond to the court adequately.”

Setting out the vision for the guide was one thing; achieving it was another. Paul remembers that many waking hours and sleepless nights were spent ploughing through and editing the drafts sent by the contributors. “We had a truly superb team of contributors. Their drafts showed such yeoman effort; yet they were able to understand our vision for the title and respected our insights behind the edits, just as we have endeavoured to maintain the integrity of their original text to the best extent possible.

Paul’s pace of working was matched only by Justice Chua. Members of the Bench typically use the court vacation to write judgments and refresh their minds for the next term. “But the way Justice Chua worked was something else; I would turn something in to him at the end of the day and by the next morning, he would have come back with comments. We will then go back and forth for the next couple of days. And when we were satisfied, we will move on to a new draft and the whole cycle repeats itself. It was such a privilege to be able to work with Justice Chua, especially when I have already been the fortunate beneficiary of Justice Tay’s tutelage. I still stand in awe of the commitment that both Judge mentors showed and the amount of effort that each had poured into their work involving the rules.”

After such a laborious process, it would be fair to expect Justice Chua and Paul to rest their feet a little. “During the launch, Justice Chua was already thinking about future editions of the book,” chuckles Paul. “We are open about wanting feedback from users. The book can only be as good as how helpful it will be to the profession,” he says on a more serious note.

Given their work ethic and passion for the new rules, we expect we’ll see a second edition of Singapore Rules of Court - A Practice Guide hot on the heels of the first before long.

Singapore Rules of Court - A Practice Guide is a collaboration between the Singapore Academy of Law and the Singapore Judicial College. It is available now as a:

·      Print title

·      Print + digital bundle