Here’s something that you probably didn’t know about Clarence Lun: he used to be an elite runner.
Clarence once ran at the highest echelons of distance running and hoped to one day represent Singapore. But while a serious knee injury might have dashed his SEA Games dreams, he remains deeply involved in the sporting world—albeit in a slightly different way:
Nowadays, Clarence Lun represents national athletes in high-profile defamation cases.
“I think it’s fair to say that we are in the news every month, lah,” Clarence jokes.
And it’s no wonder, with famous clients like two-time SEA Games gold medallist Soh Rui Yong and local sports influencer Kerstin Ong, that he is the go-to legal counsel for athletes in the know. Clarence has represented local athletes from a dizzying catalogue of sports which run the gamut from hurdling to long-distance running to taekwondo and even Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Still, Clarence remains humble about his sporting successes:
“Back in the day, before I became a lawyer, I got to know some people [in the sporting world], and I’m glad that they have the trust and confidence in me to represent them.”
Clarence has a passion for defamation suits, which he lists as a “specialty and interest area” of his practice. As a former athlete himself, he understands—more than anyone—the importance that athletes and celebrities place on maintaining a good reputation.
Where newspapers once conducted fact-checks before publishing allegations that could potentially damage an individual’s reputation, the advent of social media has significantly lowered the barriers for publishing. Toxic, unverified rumours can now fester in the darkest corners of private WhatsApp groups or Facebook comments sections. They can quickly proliferate to reach thousands with the simple click of the ‘share’ button. And if one of these malicious comments goes viral, the situation could quickly spiral out of any one person’s control.
All of this can be materially damaging to athletes, who rely primarily on their reputations for their livelihoods.
“The kinds of endorsements [athletes and influencers] obtain would rely heavily on the kind of image they portray to the public,” shares Clarence. “They are who they are because advertisers go to them, sponsors go to them. Without that, they might not be able to survive as a sportsperson, or as an influencer.”
Although it’s true that celebrities have more to lose, Clarence is of the view that anyone, even an ordinary citizen, can be a victim of defamatory statements.
“Everyone has a reputation. The reputation of an individual lives with him, grows with him and is associated with him throughout his life,” he says. “It’s something that’s difficult to build up, but easy to destroy. Even the man on the street also has an image to protect. It is something that they have carved out over time. People want to be known for who they are. So even if the damages may not be as significant (in terms of quantum), there’s still an image and a sense of pride that they wish to protect.”
FERVENT IN ALL WE DO
Having spoken at great length about the importance of image, what is the image of Fervent Chambers LLC?
Despite being a new law firm established just this year, Fervent has already heightened expectations with a string of high-quantum, high-profile cases, as well as a successful article on witness-gating in arbitration which was picked up by overseas law firms and legal journals in January.
Far from being a one-trick pony, Fervent also handles—in addition to the celebrity defamation cases—many high-value complex corporate and commercial disputes, as well as matters relating to international arbitration.
Clarence credits all these successes to the strong team at Fervent.
“I’ve got a good core team of lawyers who support me, so I have the confidence to take on the biggest cases and be able to advance the client’s position to achieve success in their cases when they have placed their trust in me.”
To continue attracting top talent to the firm, Clarence believes in taking on a good portfolio of high-value complex disputes work and interesting, high-profile cases that would “excite a good team”. Currently, he is also looking at cross-border associations with foreign law firms to expand the firm’s international reach.
It is important to Clarence that the foundation of his law firm is built on an ethos of passion, drive and excellence, hence the name ‘Fervent’.
“I plan to leave this firm for a new generation of lawyers to take over,” he shares, “so I think it’s important that the firm is not named after any one lawyer. People do get old. I don’t believe that a firm should be named after its founders.”
Instead, Clarence believes that a firm should be named after its ethos so that those who believe in the same values can continue advancing the good name of the firm beyond the legacy of any one individual.
Apart from his team, Clarence also counts himself blessed to have received the support and mentorship of many others—Gregory Vijayendran SC, Andrew Chan, Ajinderpal Singh and Kirindeep Singh, to name a few.
He says he is where he is today not because of the little ability that he has, but because there have been so many people willing to “build me up, nurture me and embark in this journey of life with me”. Therefore, he hopes to be able to pay it forward by making a similar contribution to the careers of other lawyers, as well as by having a positive influence and impact on the lives of the people he comes across.
“I have come to this stage of my career only because I am fervent and passionate in what I do. I believe that the clients are the best judge on whether a lawyer is passionate and whether he is someone who will strive to do the very best for his case.”
NOT ONE TO LEAVE A CLIENT IN THE LURCH
“So, what’s your favourite thing about being a lawyer?” I ask Clarence.
“That there’s never a dull day,” he quips.
For instance, when he took on this ‘low-bono’ criminal case recently, he never imagined that his client would attempt to abscond from his hearing and flee the country.
Although Clarence specialises in commercial dispute resolution and defamation, he took on the case when the defendant’s previous lawyer—one of Clarence’s former team members—left the firm to become an in-house counsel. Faced with the decision of discharging the case or continuing to act for the client, Clarence chose the latter.
“So are you still continuing with the case now?”
Clarence is a good sport and he doesn’t shy away from the tough question. His response on why he is continuing with the case, despite all that has happened, is as candid as it is heartfelt:
“Given that the client couldn’t pay, we felt that continuing to represent him was the right thing to do. And we can’t just leave the father, who has posted bail of $30,000, in the lurch as well. Because that is hard-earned money.”
While Clarence doesn’t expect the Court to refund the full bail bond of $30,000 in light of his client’s actions, he does hope that he will be able to help his client’s father to recover at least a portion of the amount.
Even though he’s left his sporting days behind him, I can sense that the things that make Clarence a good lawyer are the very same values that we ascribe to sportsmen—a commitment to excellence, a respect for teamwork and a strong sense of fairness.
Perhaps sports and lawyering have a great deal more in common than most people would think.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to a practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.