Darren Tan, lawyer

Darren graduated from the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law in 2013 and is currently an associate in TSMP Law Corporation. He co-founded several social initiatives during his time in NUS and he continues to oversee these initiatives through his directorship in Tasek Jurong Limited, a charity with IPC status. He also served as Council member of the 13th National Youth Council. In 2015, Darren was appointed to the CSR Sub-Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law, whose primary objective is to raise awareness and funds for the Yellow Ribbon SAL-STAR Bursary – Darren was a recipient of the Bursary while going through law school. In the same year, Darren was nominated for the Singaporean of the Year Award by the Straits Times and for the 40 Under 40 Young Professionals by Prestige Magazine. More recently, Darren was nominated for the 70 Under 40 Most Influential Lawyers by the Singapore Business Review.

This Letter is addressed to his younger self in the 1st month of Law School. He was late for school as he was released from prison after the school semester had commenced.

Dear Darren,

You are feeling very lost now, and understandably so. You wrestle daily with your thoughts and they are many.

You wish you had not missed the Orientation. You see your peers neatly categorised into their orientation groups or old schools' clubs and you wish you could also find something in common with your peers.

You sit at the first row of the lecture theatre, as you cannot muster enough confidence to walk any further than that; you pick the least conspicuous spot in the seminar room, far away from the crowd.

You are conscious that someone will question why you do not have a laptop or textbooks. What will you say then – that you cannot afford them just yet? Will that make you appear even weirder than you already are?

Worse still, will they ever find out that you are an ex-convict? You imagine the mockery that awaits: a law-breaker studying law!

So many well-meaning people had forewarned you about embarking on this path: “you are setting yourself up for disappointment”, “you can never be a lawyer”, “go study something else”, “society is not ready” – you remember their warnings as clear as day.

I wish I can reveal to you now what the future holds for you – how I wished someone could have told me the same!

You probably can’t imagine this now, but in a few years' time you will make more friends in school than you could expect, and many of these friendships will last beyond Law School. Your peers are not unfriendly – they are just as lost as you are and merely putting up a front as they fight their own battles every day. So stop making the Botanic Gardens your refuge during break times.

You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that your journey could be an inspiration to others like you in time to come. So stop being ashamed of your past: embrace it and employ it for the benefit of others.

You will be disappointed with your first-year grades and you will blame it on juggling work and studies at the same time. What you may not appreciate now is that a robust spirit goes a longer way than grades in law practice. So continue to do what you need to do to survive – the payoff comes much later.

Oh. And you may just want to know that your being called to the Bar would be rather uneventful.


Yourself with plenty of hindsight

Gary Chan, law professor

Gérardine Goh Escolar, space cadet and international lawyer