Viviene is an experienced advocate of more than 21 years who has represented clients in all areas of civil litigation, with a primary focus on insurance and family law.
Viviene has handled a broad spectrum of cases ranging from simple cases to complex and contentious matters at all levels of the Singapore Court hierarchy. From time to time, she handles minor criminal matters stemming from road traffic offences, assault cases to minor drug offences.
In addition to being a litigator, Viviene is an Accredited Mediator and a Fellow with the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. Viviene is also a Primary Justice Lawyer at the Community Justice Courts.
In 2018, Viviene was awarded the State Courts’ Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award (Advocate & Solicitor Category Winner), in appreciation for her invaluable contributions to the Judiciary.
Viviene also takes an interest in mentoring aspiring lawyers by providing them with opportunities to work alongside her on real-life cases and garner exposure to a plethora of legal matters.
How did you come about reading law?
My deep love for reading and arguing – or more diplomatically put – debating as a teenager led me to read law. It was really teaching or law for me. Ultimately, my parents wanted to give me the best opportunity in life and decided to pool all their resources together to send me to England where I read law at the University of Liverpool. 9 years later, they provided the same opportunity to my sister who also read law at the same University. 17 years later, my parents sent my brother to England to read law at the University of Southampton, which is his second degree after having graduated with a Psychology degree.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a lawyer mum?
Spending quality time with the kids. Taking time to smell the roses. At times feeling torn between work (due to timelines and the demands of work) and the kids. It was and still is extremely difficult to balance the two. Some days it is 80:20 and other days it is 20:80 between work and kids. Many times, I experience “working mother’s guilt”. As I had 3 kids back-to-back, when my kids were younger, everything was always a rush. I was not able to spend as much time with the kids on some days as I would have liked. This was due to the nature and demands of litigious work. It was also attributable to the demanding and stressful education system in Singapore leading to stress and less free time in family life.
Nowadays with the wisdom that comes with time and experience, I am learning to slow down and I enjoy spending time with my kids as well as playing with my young niece and nephew. My kids are teenagers now and they still need me, but in a very different way. I am very blessed to have a supportive husband who is very hands-on, so we work together to balance our respective careers and family priorities.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions about your work that you hear?
The first is that all lawyers are very intelligent or smart. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about intelligence, it’s that very few people are born “extremely smart.” Getting a law degree is not necessarily about intelligence but diligence and discipline.
The second is that lawyers earn a lot of money. That might have been the case in the past but that is not so anymore. These days you have to know the law, have a strong professional reputation and know how to run a business well; that’s quite a challenge!
Who are some of the mentors/people you look up to and why?
I don’t have a mentor per se. But I do have a deep appreciation of my parents who have worked hard to give their 3 children the best in education.
I have also admired Barrack and Michelle Obama for their commitment to each other and their values, the way they speak and carry themselves and their service to their country. Like them, I have been always guided by my Christian principles.
Over the years, I have developed friendships with senior lawyers like Amolat Singh, Chandra Mohan and Peter Low whom I am blessed to count as my friends. I am always amazed by how humble and kind they are. They are always more than happy to provide guidance and share their thoughts.
Now as a senior lawyer yourself, do you also help the younger generation of aspiring lawyers?
I regularly take on interns and trainees to work with me on my cases. I would bring them along for court matters or mediation, so that they get a thorough understanding of how matters proceed in practice.
I also get them to try drafting some legal documents like simple affidavits and simple submissions and provide them with guidance and feedback on possible improvements. These are skills that they can only hone while in practice, so it is a valuable opportunity for them to try their hands on while they are still studying.
One thing I always try to do for my interns is to expose them to different legal matters, which may be helpful for them to decide on their future career path.
I always remind them to be grateful, humble and kind and encourage them to do pro bono whenever they can.
Within my team of young associates, we have weekly meetings to share our cases and court experiences. We also share our latest diets and exercise regimes!
Of all the cases you have handled, could you share with us one that stood out for you and why it did so?
2019 is my 21st year in practice. I have seen many cases, from contentious family tussles involving property, acrimonious divorces to horrific accidents or assaults causing injury and life-changing disabilities. I have many stories to tell but none in particular stands out at this point in time.
What legal issue/area do you think will become more significant in the future?
Singapore has already placed itself on the world map with the Singapore Convention on Mediation and this type of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), where people can sit face-to-face and air their differences consensually before a neutral accredited mediator to try to settle the matter without going to Court (or even within the Court processes), is set to grow.
What are your thoughts on technology and how will it change the way the law is served?
Technology is transforming all industries and the legal profession is no exception. Those who are ready to embrace it will reap the benefits and revolutionise how they serve their clients.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed most and why?
The legal landscape has completely changed from when I first started practice. First, the relentless adoption of technology has helped maintain Singapore as the go-to place for legal services in the region. Then the liberalisation of the profession has brought in foreign expertise. Finally, there is a much greater emphasis on ADR and a focus on access to justice.
What skills do you think lawyers/aspiring lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
Lawyers need to enhance their current skillset by being more business and technology savvy. Apart from being IT savvy, people skills are key. AI may automate some aspects of our daily tasks but we (the human factor) will remain the most important factor.
Could you share with us 3 fun facts about yourself?
- I work hard and play hard!
- My family and I try to explore a different country every year. Go see the world, it’s out there!
- I believe in always standing up for the disadvantaged!
Photo: Viviene with her family at Meteora, Central Greece, June 2019
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