Managing Director of legal firm Peter Low & Choo LLC and former Deputy Public Prosecutor Mr Peter Cuthbert Low was cited by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in his speech at this year's Mass Call on Thursday (30 Aug) as a sound benchmark for young lawyers, particularly those who had just been called to the Bar, to aspire to.
Drawing from an anecdote, the Chief Justice said:
In an interview with The Straits Times given five years ago, Mr Low said: “I don't want to be mediocre. I want to be a dedicated professional. That's why, from the time I started, I've always looked out for heroes – senior lawyers who are professionally competent, ethically sound and inspiring.”
In that same interview that I mentioned, Mr Low said that “people first need access to a lawyer before they can get access to justice”. For Mr Low, the right of access to counsel is not an abstract concept, but an ideal he has devoted his entire professional life to upholding. Time and again, he has shown himself to have the courage of his convictions when he stepped forward to represent unpopular persons and causes and, in so doing, he brought the promise of justice to all.
Chief Justice Menon also drew attention to Mr Low's role as "an enthusiastic and inspiring mentor" to his interns and trainees, and that this enthusiasm is rooted in the latter's belief that “the cultivation of the best traditions of the Singapore Bar in … young lawyers is the noblest contribution a senior lawyer can make”.
Mr Low exemplifies some of our most important values, and it therefore came as no surprise last year when he was conferred the CC Tan Award by the Law Society.
This is an annual accolade named after the Society’s first president, Mr Tan Chye Cheng, who embodied the finest traditions of the legal profession in his commitment to honesty, fair play, courtesy, and integrity.
Since 2003, the award has been given to lawyers who best personify the example set by Mr Tan.
In the same speech, Chief Justice Menon raised the crucial need for young lawyers to be "creative" and innovative with their solutions, as the legal field is no longer the "solitary" and "insular" profession that is commonly perceived to be many decades ago, especially in an age where "game-changing technological tools" are available at the disposal of lawyers.
"[...] this is the time for you to think imaginatively about developing new and better ways to deliver legal services.
There is, in fact, a real appetite within the legal industry for innovative solutions that will drive down the cost of legal services," he said.
He warned of the possibility that "low-value work will be outsourced to alternative service providers who leverage on technology to do the work more cheaply", and that "law firms will come to rely on the services of a suite of skilled legal technicians as technology becomes embedded in every facet of our work", adding that "original thinkers" will have an upper hand in such an environment.
Chief Justice Menon also highlighted the collaboration between a group of law students and their counterparts from other disciplines in the process of creating a simulator which uses an algorithm to predict the likely division of assets in matrimonial proceedings, adding that the scope of the simulator will be widened to other areas of practice in law such as personal injury claims, intellectual property and contractual disputes.
Mr Low, who is also the founder of a local human rights organisation MARUAH and former President of the Law Society of Singapore, is known for his contributions to civil society, having notably chaired and/or served on committees such as the Review of Death Penalty Committee and the review of proposals to amend the Penal Code.
As counsel, Mr Low has represented various clients in multiple high-profile cases, among which were the cases of Singapore Democratic Party's Secretary-General Chee Soon Juan, who was sued for libel by Prof Ernest Chew and People's Action Party MP Dr Vasoo in 1994, and also Far Eastern Economic Review, which was sued for libel by then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
More recently, Mr Low represented the town council managed by the opposition party, Workers' Party in their case against the National Environment Agency over holding a trade fair without a permit and a resident's application to hold a by-election in Marsiling-YewTee GRC after Madam Halimah Yacob vacated her seat to stand in the 2017 Presidential Election.