SENIOR COUNSEL 2023
Mr Kelvin Poon SC and Mr Wong Woon Kwong SC reflect on their journeys.
L-R: Mr Kelvin Poon SC and Mr Wong Woon Kwong SC
BY ASHUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN
The law is among the noblest of professions, but many join it for far more practical reasons. This shouldn’t determine how well one does in it, as this year’s Senior Counsel appointees, Mr Kelvin Poon SC and Mr Wong Woon Kwong SC, prove.
Kelvin recalls that he chose the law during his National Service days, drawn to the fact that tests and interviews for law school would shave two days off his training. “In all honesty, I grew up wanting to be a teacher, because I had so many inspiring teachers back in secondary school,” shares the Deputy Managing Partner of Rajah & Tann. “I thought I might go into teaching after a year or two in practice.”
Similarly, Woon Kwong remembers choosing the law because he was “simply so bad at math and Mandarin”. But like Kelvin, he soon found that law was indeed a natural calling, given his proclivity for intellectual rigour and public service. “The plan was to try it for a few years to see if it clicked and it did, and I’ve never looked back,” says the Senior Director at AGC’s Crime Division, who joined the Singapore Legal Service in 2009.
That has a lot to do with the mentorship and guidance both men have received over the years. “No matter how busy they were, my seniors never turned me away when I showed up unannounced with a question or concern,” recalls Woon Kwong.
Kelvin echoes this view, recalling one of his first High Court cases during the Slim 10 saga, where he learnt the ropes from another giant of the profession, Mr Lok Vi Ming SC. “The experience made me realise that this is something I could do well and that I would enjoy doing.”
Being on the receiving end of such mentorship and guidance has shaped the way they lead their teams today. Their leadership styles are also informed by another experience both men share: they are fathers, although at slightly different stages. Kelvin’s four children are aged between 17 and 11, while Woon Kwong’s three children are aged between five and two. Like many parents, they understand the tough choices that many have to make between family and career, and hope that they can guide their juniors to make choices based on their values and beliefs.
When asked for advice on navigating these choices, Woon Kwong turns to his own experience. “For me, work-life balance isn’t always fixed. Sometimes it skews one way, sometimes it skews the other. There’s never a steady state of equilibrium; there will be days when you find yourself working really long hours and you’ll need some support at home with your family. I’m fortunate to have that support network at home. And there are also days when work may be a bit lighter and you find that you have more time to devote to your family and interests. I think it helps to recognise that.”
Adds Kelvin, “And remember, priorities shift. They can change every year and may even look different every month. We need to be courageous enough to accept that at some stage of our lives, we may put a young child ahead of our work and accept that we slow down a bit to make this happen. There’s a tendency to want to be in lockstep with our peers but I don’t think that’s realistic anymore. As mentors, I think we can remind young lawyers that they have a lot of control over how they shape their lives and careers.”
SAL congratulates both Mr Kelvin Poon SC and Mr Wong Woon Kwong SC on their appointments and welcomes them as Fellows of the Academy.