60 years of legal education

NUS Law commemorated 60 years of legal education with an anniversary dinner at Shangri-La Hotel on 20 October. In conjunction with the celebrations, The Lamp of the Law: 60 Years of Legal Education at NUS Law (The Lamp of the Law), a book detailing the growth of the Faculty was launched.

In his welcome speech, Professor Simon Chesterman, Dean of NUS Law, placed people at the core of NUS Law’s history, saying, “Yet even the finest classrooms and the richest body of scholarship would be nothing without the people that pass through those halls and engage with that material.” He added that graduates through NUS Law’s six decades of history have gone on to leadership roles in Singapore and overseas, with others joining public service, academia and corporations in various industries.

Hopefully, students will realise through their exposure to pro bono work during their student days, what a privilege it is to be able to help others, and so continue to do so even after they graduate.

Singapore’s Chief Justice and NUS Law alumnus Sundaresh Menon graced the occasion as Guest-of-Honour. He spoke about the challenges and opportunities ahead for the legal profession, such as the internationalisation of legal practice. In this regard, he was pleased to note that NUS Law had exposed its students to international and comparative law. He also suggested that the disruptive force of technology should prompt the legal profession to “think radically about what this means for the way we teach our future lawyers”.

The Chief Justice urged lawyers to stay committed to the ethos of the profession and demonstrate it through public service as well. He commended NUS Law’s tradition of student-led pro bono activities, highlighting examples such as Pro Bono Group and Criminal Justice Club, as well as the 20 hours of pro bono work that students are required to complete. “I think these are excellent initiatives to be encouraged and expanded. Hopefully, students will realise through their exposure to pro bono work during their student days, what a privilege it is to be able to help others, and so continue to do so even after they graduate,” he said.

The special anniversary book The Lamp of the Law was carefully researched and written by Dr Kevin Tan, NUS Law alumnus and adjunct professor at the Faculty. Over six chapters that span some 200 pages, the legal historian delved into the development of NUS Law from initial efforts to provide legal education at Raffles College, through the war years to its transformation in the present day as one of Asia’s leading law schools.

The insightful volume includes anecdotes and speeches from leading legal and political personalities such as Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founding Prime Minister; Dr Toh Chin Chye, former NUS Vice-Chancellor; and Professor Tommy Koh, former NUS Law Dean, Ambassador-At-Large with Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rector of Tembusu College. Proceeds from its sale went towards the NUS Law Student Support Fund, which was established at the start of the jubilee year to provide financial assistance to law students.


Mr Menon (left) and Prof Chesterman (right) each holding a copy of The Lamp of the Law, authored by Dr Tan

Since its inception in 1956 as the Law Department of the University of Malaya and the admittance of its inaugural batch of 22 undergraduates the following year, NUS Law has produced some 10,000 graduates.

The anniversary dinner was attended by more than 300 faculty members, students, eminent alumni and members of the legal profession, as well as benefactors. It is one of the signature events that commemorate NUS Law’s year-long celebration of its diamond jubilee; other signature events include the launch of the EW Barker Centre for Law & Business in May, as well as the upcoming student-organised Law IV fundraising musical and Alumni Movie Night.

See press release and media coverage.