Singapore law society president pledges to fight cancer 'until the clock runs out’

Messages of support flood in as Adrian Tan reveals how ‘disaster struck’ during his first months as president

Adrian Tan Image courtesy of The Law Society of Singapore

The president of the Law Society of Singapore has received sympathy and support from the profession after pledging to continue in the role despite undergoing an ‘aggressive treatment regime’ for cancer.

Adrian Tan revealed his cancer diagnosis in a LinkedIn post last Thursday (28 July) when he said he had resolved to ‘fight cancer, fight my cases in court and fight for lawyers as their president, until the clock runs out’.
Tan, an IP litigation partner at TSMP Law Corporation, became president in January and was diagnosed with cancer in March after falling ill the previous month. 
Tan, who is 56, said he had decided to continue working after consulting with partners at his firm and Law Society council members who ‘have a right to know about my ability to carry out my duties’.
He said he had gone public on his illness because people were worried about him as he had turned down ‘countless invitations to give speeches, attend events or meet in person’ due to his compromised immune system.
Tan has a large following on social media and comments with wit and compassion on legal and other topics of interest to Singapore's legal and business communities.

In his post, Tan said the diagnosis had simplified his life ‘in an instant’, adding: ‘There were only three plans I needed to make. I should plan to spend time with people I value. I should plan to spend my energy doing something that gives meaning. And I should always plan for tomorrow. Because a belief in the future is the best medicine for any ailment that life throws at us."

The post has received thousands of responses, including comments from many leading local and international lawyers.

Bird & Bird ATMD joint managing partner and head of IP Lorraine Tay wrote that he was "blessed with a rare and very special gift - the gift of making people smile no matter how tough it gets. Just by your words and actions, you channel hope and positivity into all you do." She added: “You are one of the strongest and bravest people I know.”

Tan was elected president of the law society, which has 6,300 members, in November last year and took over from Rajah & Tann commercial litigation partner Gregory Vijayendran, the longest-serving president having been in the role for five years.

In his post, he said he had planned to have the busiest year of his career until ‘disaster struck’. ‘I planned to raise the morale of lawyers and stem the Great Resignation in the legal industry. I would improve the image of the profession, by showcasing its pro bono work in the community. I would push for technology adoption, so that we could have virtual law firms. I would make lawyering great again.’

He told The Straits Times last week he had been feeling well since treatment started and exercises and plays chess every night.

News of Tan's cancer diagnosis comes as Singapore's WongPartnership mourns the death of co-founder and senior partner Alvin Yeo SC from cancer, aged 60.

He was the youngest senior counsel ever appointed to that rank, aged just 37, in 2000. He also served as an MP in Singapore's legislature. 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]