2 Mar 2009 Posted in Speeches
Thank you Simon. I thank you also for reciting the various items in my curriculum vitae. A little known but personally important fact for me is that many years ago, I mean many, before most of the graduands here were born, I taught at NYU Law School. This was when I was Ambassador to the UN and my good friend Tom Frank invited me to join him in teaching his constitutional law class. I think it was on a Thursday. I think I made many Thursdays, but later on during the General Assembly, the hectic pace made me play truant quite a bit. But it was great fun, and even then, I began to appreciate the strengths of the NYU Law School. And so, much later, when I was Minister for Law and Dean Cheng Han approached me on the subject of collaboration with NYU Law School, my instinctive reaction was to give it strong support. I am very glad that it has taken off and today we have the second graduating class.
Let me congratulate all the graduands of this class of 2009 of the NYU@NUS Dual Degree Programme who are convocating today.
A Global Education as Part of a Vibrant Legal Hub
- As you all know, the collaboration between NUS and NYU was initiated some years ago when the Dean of Law, Cheng Han, visited New York University.
- At that time, it was fortunate that NYU had a vision of bringing the world to New York; and NUS also had a vision, namely of bringing NUS students out into the world. So by this initiative, NUS has brought New York to students here in Singapore; and NYU has widened its accessibility beyond New York. So in this way, both NUS and NYU have realised their visions of building truly global law schools. It is part of a growing network of ties, including the LLB-JD and the cross-appointment of NYU and NUS faculty in the respective law schools.
- I understand that your degree programme that focuses on ‘Law and the Global Economy’ is particularly relevant in the modern context. It offers a new and exciting blend of courses, and the double Singapore and New York degree actually gives you greater opportunities in our increasingly globalised legal world. After only two years, the NYU@NUS programme has already established a reputation for rigorous teaching and a reputation for top quality students. Industry feedback on the quality of the graduates has been very positive. This year, the class, once again covering six continents, has grown from 39 students in the first year, to 55.
- This programme is part of a thriving and highly global eco-system here in Singapore. A second law school at SMU is doing well and is also establishing its own international ties. NUS has built many networks through the Asian Law Institute (ASLI), the Asian Society of International Law, and most recently, the new Centre for International Law. So you can see this cosmopolitan outlook which is crucial to Singapore’s growth as a vibrant legal hub.
Opportunities in Singapore and Asia
- As other speakers have mentioned, it is true that the world into which you, the graduating class of 2009, is graduating is very different compared to that of the pioneering batch. This time last year, the global economy was thriving and nobody suspected it would spiral downwards.
- But despite the worldwide economic turmoil, I think that opportunities still remain for lawyers, although the situation will vary from country to country, depending on circumstances. But let me say how I see the situation in Singapore as of now. Law firms in Singapore have reported an increase in corporate restructuring, arbitration and dispute resolution work, and insolvency matters. Asia is still seen as a growing economy, with greater opportunities than some Western mature economies.
- This is particularly so in Singapore. Last year, the Ministry of Law announced the award of six Qualifying Foreign Law Practice licences and we decided to do this and announce this implementation recently. These six top-notch global firms will be servicing their cross-border regional work from Singapore. Several foreign law firms have also set up law practices here in the last four months, notwithstanding the current economic conditions, and one of them is on the Global Top 40 law firms list, where firms are ranked by revenue. Their clients are still pursuing ventures within the region.
- Arbitration also has become entirely liberalised. We have built on our geographical advantages to become a neutral arbitration venue of choice. In July, we will have completed the renovation of Maxwell Chambers which is a conservation building, into a first class arbitration hearing facility. Aside from hearing facilities, it will also house renowned arbitral institutes such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the ICDR (a collaboration between the American Arbitration Association and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre) and the ICC-ICA. We have also in place a tax incentive for growth in arbitration work, and firms which are growing their arbitration practices will be able to take advantage of this.
- Our status as a premier arbitration centre has also been recognised internationally. A 2007 report published by the ICC International Court of Arbitration ranked Singapore as the top city in Asia for ICC arbitrations and one of the 5 most popular ICC arbitration venues alongside Paris, London, Geneva and Zurich.
- In the coming year, the Government will further enhance our legal education infrastructure, by strengthening the training and qualifications for admission to the Singapore bar, continuing legal education for lawyers, and will also look into working out a corporate practice exam that would allow foreign lawyers to practise Singapore law in corporate areas.
- So as one of the graduands said just now, although it may be a challenging and testing period that you are graduating into, they are also in many ways exciting times which may present opportunities in unique ways. So my message is: there are many opportunities for legal talent, both local and foreign, and the course that you have just been through, I have no doubt has sharpened and honed your legal knowledge to new levels. I believe it is time, effort and resources well invested.
- I hope many of you will take advantage of the avenues now open in Singapore, but as many of you will go to different countries or your own home countries, I wish to express my hope that you have success in whichever country that you decide to work, and I also hope that you will keep your links with Singapore and the friends and acquaintances you have struck up.
- So congratulations again and I wish all of you the best for the future. Thank you.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012