Singapore, 9 December 2020 – Some 250 members of the legal profession logged online on the evening of 2 December to demonstrate that COVID-19 has not dented the profession’s solidarity and camaraderie. The virtual get-together, titled “Force Majeure”, was also attended by leaders of the organising bodies: the Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in his capacity as President, Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) and Mr Gregory Vijayendran SC, President of The Law Society of Singapore. The duo departed from the norm of speeches, choosing to instead engage in a candid chat on the pandemic’s impact on the profession.
Describing the challenges of working from home, Chief Justice Menon said, “The first thing I noticed was the complete breakdown of any segregation between the personal and professional spaces. I found myself turning on my computer first thing in the morning and leaving it on till very late in the day. I somehow felt that I never disconnected from being on duty even when we weren’t on duty.”
Looking to the future, Chief Justice Menon added, “I hope the profession will be able to go back to the things we cherish, like human interaction and contact. I feel terribly sad for young people, who have lost a window of mentorship, which depends on, to a significant degree, the ability to talk to their superiors. They still do the work but miss out on a lot of the soft learning that is so valuable. I hope this can be part of our reality again before long.”
Said Mr Vijayendran, “The COVID-19 pandemic and its well documented adverse effects have been analysed legally as ‘force majeure’ events, resulting in certain contractual rights and obligations being suspended or ended. In tongue-in-cheek fashion, SAL and Law Society termed the event Force Majeure to show that our meeting and greeting one another is neither suspended nor ended, even if the external environment could prove torrid or horrid. It is truly uplifting that the legal fraternity joined hands and hearts together in a show of authentic and symbolic solidarity despite our shared sense of loss suffered with society by the multifarious adverse impact of the pandemic.”
He continued, “I hope that this meaningful event will be a harbinger of hope for the strong spirit of unity and charity continuing long after the pandemic becomes a footnote of history. Indeed, this event demonstrates compassion in deed and not only in words. The generous giving by members of the legal profession to two worthy causes helping the vulnerable and new vulnerable is apt, timely and caring during the SG Cares Giving Week.”
Force Majeure also raised close to $65,000 for two charities: the Yellow Ribbon Fund (“YRF”) – STAR (“Skills Training Assistance to Restart”) Bursary for the rehabilitation and education of ex-offenders, and the Law Society Pro Bono Services’ Harry Elias SC CLAS Fellowship Fund to further render pro bono criminal legal aid to vulnerable groups.