Alan Tan, law professor

Dr. Alan Tan is Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Law School, specialising in Aviation Law, Criminal Law and Environmental Law. Born in Penang, Malaysia, Alan came to Singapore for junior college as an ASEAN Scholar and subsequently obtained an LL.B from NUS and a masters and doctorate from Yale Law School. He was previously Vice-Dean for Graduate Studies and Research at NUS Law. He was also Director (Projects) in the Office of the Provost at NUS, overseeing the newly-established Yale-NUS College's double degree programmes. Alan has been engaged as a consultant on aviation liberalisation in Asia by the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Arab League and various national governments and airlines.  

When he first graduated from NUS Law, Alan had an enticing offer to join Mars, Inc. to market M&M’s chocolates in China. But then the Law School beckoned with an irresistible offer to come back as an academic. Even as he now revels in his choice, he does wonder occasionally how life would have turned out selling M&M’s in China.      

This Letter is addressed to his younger self during his time in law school, and is dedicated to all his students - past, present and future.


Hey J., 

Block 5, Raffles Hall, Kent Ridge


So, here and now, in two-thousand-seventeen

Looking back, where have I been? 

Oh, you'll be delighted to know

You won't quite be leaving Law School, no

For loving the law so much, you'll get to go

Right back to profess, to spawn more of Them (!)

A true blessing then, to be bestowed this gem

Of a career that fuels infinite content

(And no, I don’t mean selling M&M’s) 

So one of Them says, can you pen

To your Self of bygone whens

Sure, I say, far from something trite

I'll tell you what you got right

Keep the faith, avoid the fright

Of sadistic partners and endless nights

Climb instead that ivory tower of academe

There, you'll help shape and make dreams

Not that they'll be grateful, these younglings

But the sublime joy of knowing

That They'll be forever nineteen

And should any be disagreeable to bear

There'll always be the bunch next year!

Oh They, on their yellow brick road to untold wealth

Thru’ days of 18-hour labour

With no small sacrifice to sanity and health

And soon enough They’ll look askance

At that promise of work-life balance!

But for you, you shall find gladness and goodness

In the pleasures of books, cases and IVLE

In the hopes of remarkable achievers-to-be

Let this then be a tribute to our joint charges

As I reminisce, these are some gems you'll find

Jordan T and FY Min in advocacy

Eugene T and Wendell W, in pro bono crime

Amrin A, man in white, working the ground

Pris S who flees law to fashion gowns

Kelvin T who'd rather make films in town

These are, bar none, your very best

Of wards who never let it rest

But went out to scour the world

For their pot of fulfilment gold

But let you also know, lest one hasn’t been told

There'll be tears, as nights turn cold

Sorrows to weep, mates to console

Dreams shattered, anguish foretold

Angels taken young, HY by terrorists evil

EY, by nature's crushing waves

Thiru, by sickness but never fazed

And now poor AW who'd rather walk alone …

Alone maybe ... though never lonely

For it’s said that friends who love beyond the world

Cannot be separated by it

And you, yourself, in months to come

Friend of friends, joy of joys

One July day leaves one rather lonesome

But you then live life quite the fullest

That life you'd have wished them to live

Had you been first to leave

So alone yes, but never lonely

These, the myriad souls

Whom you'll meet, celebrate and condole

So stay the course my young Self

This, the life you choose

You'll get there safe, for certain

For there'll be bookloads of

Challenge, Companionship

And above all, Contentment

All that you'd ever wish in turn

Upon every single Them student. 

Neoh Sue Lynn, in-house counsel

Jaclyn Neo, law professor