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Adrian Tan, respected Law Society president and bestselling author, passes away at 57 after cancer battle

SINGAPORE — Adrian Tan, President of the Law Society, succumbed to cancer on Saturday (8 Jul) at age 57 after fighting the disease for over a year.

Diagnosed in March 2022, Mr Tan, a partner at TSMP Law Corporation, went public with his health status in July last year via a post on LinkedIn.

He initially dismissed his symptoms as inconsequential, seeking medical attention only when he felt gravely unwell.

Though he did not disclose the type of cancer he had, he resolutely vowed to “fight cancer, fight my cases in court, and fight for lawyers as their president, until the clock runs out”.

Once diagnosed, Mr Tan began an aggressive treatment plan comprising chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy.

Mr Tan, who took up his role as Law Society president on 1 January 2022, was an active voice on social media, sharing insights on everything from the legal profession to social topics.

On legislative matters, Mr Tan has been a vocal advocate for caning as a suitable punishment and the use of the death penalty in Singapore. Last April, he robustly defended the legal profession when it faced criticism after a case involving trainee lawyers who cheated on the Bar exams, branding the critiques as “misguided.”

However, Mr Tan does not uniformly support all existing legislation. This is evident in his critique of the ban on cat-rearing in HDB flats.

Having served as a lawyer for over three decades, Mr Tan had a multifaceted career, highlighted by his authorship of two best-selling novels, The Teenage Textbook and The Teenage Workbook, in the late 1980s. These popular books were subsequently turned into a film and a TV series.

Tributes poured in following news of Mr Tan’s passing. K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, mourned the loss on his Facebook page. “Adrian has passed away at the age of 57. Far too young, far too soon. He was witty, pleasant to spend time with. A sharp mind with a wonderful heart. Adrian was multi-talented, a true Renaissance Man,” he wrote.

Workers’ Party Member of Parliament, Associate Professor Jamus Lim, also paid tribute on his Facebook page, commending Mr Tan’s remarkable career as a lawyer and his influential Teenage Textbook series.

Mr Tan was the author of the young adult fiction novels The Teenage Textbook and its sequel, The Teenage Workbook, penned in 1988 and 1989 respectively.

His first book was transformed into a movie in 1998, featuring Melody Chen and Caleb Goh. More recently, in 2021, The Teenage Textbook was reincarnated as a Mediacorp TV series, starring Xuan Ong, Chen Yixin, and Chris Mak.

Mr Tan’s death is indeed a great loss to both the legal profession and the literary world. His contributions, however, will continue to resonate and inspire.

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