Gary Chan, law professor

Gary graduated from NUS law school in 1993 and is currently Professor of Law, at the Singapore Management University (SMU). Prior to academia, he worked as a judicial officer, corporate lawyer and legal counsel in that order. Gary teaches and researches on Tort law, Comparative Legal Systems and Ethics in SMU. He is married with three children and enjoys watching football.

This Letter is addressed to himself at the end of year 2 of law school.

Dear Gary

Don't be dejected. It's not the end of the world. Yes, you did not do well in the exams. That's because you did not work hard enough. You devoted too much time to your NUS club publishing newsletters and the annual magazine. You have to take responsibility for poor time management and come back stronger next year.

I know this is cold comfort and you probably think I am rubbing salt in your wounds. But I must tell you: there'll be more failures (if not disappointments) after you graduate and start your legal career. Your learning curve will be steep. Brace yourself. You'll need time to find your feet and adapt to the working environment. (By the way, you will never fully adapt to the future with its plethora of disruptive technologies and lifelong learning programmes!)

Nonetheless, you should count your blessings. You have always been a lucky fellow! Your "A" level grades were far from perfect; yet you've managed to enroll into the law faculty at NUS. Moreover, didn't you meet your beautiful and intelligent girlfriend in year 1 of law school (whom you will later marry and raise a family with)?

So you must seize the opportunities given to you and stay the course. Continue to devote time to explore law subjects which naturally captivate you. Be prepared to slog through the tedious and technical ones as best as you can. By all means, take interesting non-law modules to expand your horizons provided you can manage your law studies.

Most important of all, as long as you find relevance and meaning in what you do, you'll be fine. Stay grounded and be true to yourself even if you lose your way from time to time. 

Recognise your limits but be ever ready to test them when the occasion calls for it. Try to surpass yourself by setting loftier goals (still, attempting to break the Guinness record for ball-juggling might be a stretch!).

Remember the signage in mom's florist shop: "Doing small things in a great way". Little by little, step by step. Incrementalism is as much a part of life as it is of the law … … 

Yours sincerely,


Nick Sim, in-house counsel

Darren Tan, lawyer