“Live long, laugh loudly.”
Adrian Tan
LL.B. (Hons) (NUS)
B.SC (Computer Science & Psychology)

A sought-after senior litigator specialising in court disputes, Adrian’s cases span the areas of intellectual property, confidential data misuse, shareholder oppression, contractual interpretation and class actions, among others.

The current Law Society President finds most satisfaction in tackling complex matters, especially when they result in leading decisions in Singapore’s highest courts. In 2018, the Court of Appeal had the opportunity to set out, before a rare five-judge panel, important principles relating to the nature and availability of Wrotham Park damages in a shareholder dispute lasting almost two decades, where Adrian successfully acted for his clients.

Notably, Adrian also possesses a rare second degree in computer science and psychology. This background, plus his experience as former general counsel at CrimsonLogic, a Singapore government technology company that provides network services in the legal, healthcare and trade sectors, puts Adrian in particularly good stead to address technology disputes, which are a burgeoning legal battleground. These range from data centre construction, social media defamation, copyright infringement and passing-off in relation to consumer electronics, and patent infringement of vaccines.

Adrian’s keen interest in technology stems from his youth, when he used to build his own gaming computers from scratch. He no longer plays first-person shooters: these days it is blitz and lightning online chess, which he plays with the same sharp strategic thinking that he employs when he fights a case.

But he is perhaps better known as an award-winning novelist, and his books have been adapted for stage and screen. Adrian is recognised among professionals for his writing, which has appeared in a variety of media, ranging from The Business Times to his popular social media op-eds on law and current affairs which have amassed millions of views.

“Excellent at absorbing a massive amount of information and possesses an extremely sound understanding of the law and applying the law to the facts. He expertly identifies the legal issues and the causes of action at law and equity, and provides excellent advice on the way forward to achieve justice for the clients.”

— Asialaw Profiles

"Impressive record in TMT, IP, data and collective sales disputes."

— The Legal 500

"Senior-level expertise in real estate collective sales disputes and IP litigation."

— The Legal 500

When you were in law school, you wrote the bestselling novels The Teenage Textbook, and its follow up, The Teenage Workbook. These were staples for those who grew up in the late ’80s and early ’90s. I believe I still have copies of them somewhere in my bookshelf! What inspired you to write?

To support myself, and to pay my school fees, I had a variety of odd jobs (nowadays, we call them gigs). I gave music lessons on the electronic organ, tuition lessons, and I wrote columns for magazines under various pseudonyms. I was an agony uncle in a woman’s periodical, and wrote regular pieces for a men’s magazine (“Yuppie Talk”) about the trials and tribulations of a Young Upwardly Mobile Professional, even though I hadn’t a clue about that world. The editors paid me 15 cents a word. I wrote short stories (one of them, about animal testing, was broadcast on the BBC World Service).

I met a publisher at a party. He read my columns, and asked me to write a novel. At the time, there weren’t very many novels about Singapore life. I thought it was a pity, as our city had so many stories to tell. I wanted to document that period of Singapore, in the 1980s, when I had entered junior college. I thought it was a widespread experience that was worth recording and remembering. Eventually, my novels sold quite well, and the royalties paid for my university degree, and sustained me until I started working. My publisher, Goh Eck Kheng, was also a lawyer, and he signed a contract with me – it was at that time that I began to understand intellectual property, and how important it was.

How did your love for the written word lead you to practice litigation?

I have wanted to be a lawyer ever since I can remember. My neighbours in Block 81, Commonwealth Close, took turns raising me, before I was old enough to go to school. They kept repeating to me that I ought to be a lawyer, even though none of them were lawyers and had probably never even engaged a lawyer. Being young and foolish, I readily absorbed their indoctrination.

You are a man of many interests: you play chess, you keep abreast of technology, you love fast cars (albeit driving them slowly, I hear); even your legal practice spans genres, covering disputes arising from en bloc property sales to social media defamation and copyright infringement. What draws all these together?

Everyone has a story. In any issue or any dispute, those with the loudest voices are always heard first: the majority, the powerful, the wealthy. But I like to help the other side tell their story: the minorities, the less privileged, those caught in the system. And to do so, I have to keep abreast of society, and understand its inhabitants.

I took a couple of years out from litigation to be general counsel of a technology company, and for four years, studied at night after work to obtain a B.Sc. in Computer Science and Psychology. It has helped me understand how people communicate, and miscommunicate, with one another, and how problems may stem from not seeing the full picture.

Tell us more about your work at the Law Society.

More than a dozen years ago, someone from the Law Society contacted me. He said that there were charities and non-profits that needed legal help. Could I pitch in? I agreed. I was then assigned to the Singapore Association for the Visually Handicapped. I have been their Honorary Legal Counsel since then, dealing with a wide variety of issues, ranging from how the blind could vote in our country’s General Elections, to negotiating with the authorities on their acquisition of our land.

I became involved with the SAVH because of the Law Society’s Project Law Help. It was then that I realised that the Law Society had many programmes, and I wanted to do my part to help it communicate those programmes. I stood for election to the Council. I was very happy to be elected by my fellow lawyers. Since then, I have served as Treasurer and Vice-President.  I find it enormously satisfying that I can give back to this wonderful profession. Just as lawyers speak up for those who are oppressed, so the Law Society speaks up for lawyers.


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