Opening Keynote Address by Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law & Health, at Law Society Neutral Evaluation & Determination Forum
Good morning, Mr Vijayendran, and also to Mr Chong Yee Leong and Mr Chia Chor Leong, the chair and co-chair respectively. My congratulations to the Law Society for launching the Neutral Evaluation and Determination Scheme, and relaunching the Law Society Arbitration Scheme, which, as we heard from Yee Leong earlier, now has added features to it. The implementation of the new scheme, is the much-needed third peg of the triumvirate, and this now broadens the range of out-of-court offerings to the public. Like its sister schemes, the new scheme is designed to be cost-effective and very much client-centric. So to give you an example of claims above $250,000, claims which would otherwise have gone to the High Court in Singapore, the neutral’s maximum fee is capped at $15,000. The new scheme also goes well beyond the tripartite processes of litigation, arbitration and mediation. These initiatives reflect the diversity of our dispute resolution landscape, and I will just pause for a moment to reflect on that.
Litigation and dispute resolution is a service. And it is a service to clients because they have a dispute that needs to be resolved. The resolution does not always have to end with both parties going their separate ways, or for there to be a winner or for there to be a loser. So it is in this context that ADR has been developed over the years. And I would also say that the development of ADR in Singapore represents a little bit of a microcosm of legal development in Singapore. I will make good that point by looking back at history, how we have come together over the years to develop ADR and looking at lessons in history in order to look forward, to see what else we can do to improve the landscape, and to enhance our legal services. I am confident, with the Law Society at the helm, that neutral evaluation will become another trailblazer, and I will explain that also in a minute.
The development of ADR in Singapore
Our standing as a dispute resolution hub did not occur by chance. Many of you know that it was deliberate by design, with the cooperation of the Government, along with the courts and the legal practitioners, through the Law Society. Over the years, we have strived to build Singapore’s reputation as a trusted forum for parties near and far to settle their disputes. There were two distinct but overlapping phases in this development – the first, largely in the 1990s, laid the foundations for ADR. ADR was not so well-known prior to that. And in the second phase, starting from the new millennium, we built on those foundations to broaden and also internationalise our services – the work that continues today.