The Legal Genie Podcast

The King of Singapore, the Late Great Adrian Tan of TSMP - Episode 38

March 03, 2023 Lara Quie Season 3 Episode 38
The King of Singapore, the Late Great Adrian Tan of TSMP - Episode 38
The Legal Genie Podcast
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The Legal Genie Podcast
The King of Singapore, the Late Great Adrian Tan of TSMP - Episode 38
Mar 03, 2023 Season 3 Episode 38
Lara Quie

In Episode 38 of The Legal Genie Podcast, your host, Lara Quie is in conversation with Adrian Tan, also known on LinkedIn as the King of Singapore and the masked litigator.

He certainly is Linkedin royalty as the most followed Singapore lawyer on LinkedIn with over 33,000 followers.

Adrian is the President of the Law Society of Singapore and also a partner at TSMP Law Corporation, where he heads the Intellectual Property and Technology Department.

Before his legal career took off, he was an award-winning novelist known for writing the cult Teenage Textbook series in the 1980s.

He was also the General Counsel of technology company, Crimson Logic and the Honorary Legal Counsel of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

I hope that you will enjoy the episode. 

You can follow Adrian on LinkedIn at

Lara Q Associates
A boutique business and executive coaching consultancy

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.


· If you liked this episode, please rate the show, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts to help the Legal Genie reach a wider audience.

· Look out for the next episode coming soon.

You can connect with Lara Quie:

· On LinkedIn at

· Website:

· Or Email at

Show Notes Transcript

In Episode 38 of The Legal Genie Podcast, your host, Lara Quie is in conversation with Adrian Tan, also known on LinkedIn as the King of Singapore and the masked litigator.

He certainly is Linkedin royalty as the most followed Singapore lawyer on LinkedIn with over 33,000 followers.

Adrian is the President of the Law Society of Singapore and also a partner at TSMP Law Corporation, where he heads the Intellectual Property and Technology Department.

Before his legal career took off, he was an award-winning novelist known for writing the cult Teenage Textbook series in the 1980s.

He was also the General Counsel of technology company, Crimson Logic and the Honorary Legal Counsel of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

I hope that you will enjoy the episode. 

You can follow Adrian on LinkedIn at

Lara Q Associates
A boutique business and executive coaching consultancy

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

Support the Show.


· If you liked this episode, please rate the show, and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts to help the Legal Genie reach a wider audience.

· Look out for the next episode coming soon.

You can connect with Lara Quie:

· On LinkedIn at

· Website:

· Or Email at

The King of Singapore - Episode 38 with Adrian Tan

[00:00:00] Lara Quie: Hello, and thank you for listening to the Legal Genie Podcast. My name is Lara Quie and I believe that we only have this one short life. And we need to live our best life now. I want lawyers to learn important lessons from movers and shakers in the legal industry. 

[00:00:35] The mission of this podcast is to empower and inspire you to create a better life for yourself. Whether that's by finding a mentor, paying more attention to your wellbeing, developing your skills as a lawyer or even moving forward in a new direction.

[00:00:52] You can find my daily posts on LinkedIn so please follow me there. Please also like and rate this podcast on whichever platform you're listening to it on. 

[00:01:03] I also offer one-on-one coaching on Fridays that cover personal branding, getting to the next level, productivity, wellbeing and so much more. So please reach out to me if you would like some help.

[00:01:17] I do hope that you will enjoy this conversation and take away some real value. Thank you for listening.

[00:01:24] Hello, and welcome to episode 38 of the Legal Genie Podcast with me your host, Lara Quie. This is a very special episode because I have with me today, Adrian Tan, also known as LinkedIn King of Singapore and the "Masked Litigator". He certainly is LinkedIn royalty as the most followed Singapore lawyer on LinkedIn with over 33,000 followers.

[00:01:54] Adrian is the President of the Law Society of Singapore and also a partner at T S M P Law Corporation where he heads the intellectual property and technology department. But before his legal career took off, he was an award-winning novelist, known for writing the cult Teenage Textbook series in the 1980s.

[00:02:16] He was also the General Counsel of Technology company, Crimson Logic, and the Honorary Legal Counsel of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped. So that is quite an introduction. Adrian, welcome to the show. 

[00:02:31] Adrian Tan: Thanks, Lara. It's nice to see you. It's nice to be on your show. I listened to all the episodes.

[00:02:36] It's really fun. You know, this idea of being on a podcast before the pandemic happened, I wouldn't even have dreamed of it. And, and I'm sure the legal community was very new to this idea. It's very exciting. 

[00:02:48] Lara Quie: It is, it is. It's so exciting and it's fantastic to have you here because the thing about podcasts is you can reach just such an incredibly large audience.

[00:02:58] And this podcast amazingly, is listened to in 50 countries all over the world. Wow. So you can have a real impact. Yeah, it's really great. And I'm so flattered, I'm so flattered that you've listened to other episodes, that's great. . So you'll know that many fantastic people have been on the show and they've shared their career journey and their life journey.

[00:03:21] And I would love to know about you. So what about your childhood and where you grew up? Tell us a little bit about that. 

[00:03:30] Adrian Tan: So I was born in Singapore, and because your podcast goes out to 50 countries, I must say Singapore is probably the tiniest country. It's a little island and it has right now about 5 million people.

[00:03:45] When I was born, it had 2 million people. It was the 1960s and there was no internet. And at the time I didn't have I any ideas on what a lawyer was when I went to school. One of my friend's fathers was a lawyer. Big deal. My mum seemed to think that I should grow up and be a doctor, not a lawyer.

[00:04:06] Stay away from that stuff. But then I watched this movie called, " To Kill a Mockingbird", which is a black and white movie, and that inspired me because I saw what a lawyer was in the community, what a lawyer could do, and what a lawyer stood for. And, and when I read the book, I understood it better. That a lawyer could be an agent for change, a voice for those who can't speak, and someone who represents a bigger ideal.

[00:04:42] Now, all that appealed to me when I was young, so I thought, oh, that's, that's something I want to be.

[00:04:48] Lara Quie: That's amazing. That book and the film, both are incredible in terms of, well, the acting of Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch 

[00:04:57] Adrian Tan: Gregory Peck. 

[00:04:58] Lara Quie: Yeah, yeah. Very handsome man. 

[00:05:00] Adrian Tan: Um, well I spent my whole life trying to look like Gregory Peck, so almost. 

[00:05:05] Lara Quie: And you succeeded. 

[00:05:07] Adrian Tan: Shameless liar. 

[00:05:09] Lara Quie: But I know what you mean when you get an idea of what the law profession should be and certainly if that was your first impression of being a lawyer and standing up for justice, et cetera. But it is quite different to the programs that we see and young people viewing suits. And in my day we were certainly watching all sorts of funny legal dramas. 

[00:05:34] Adrian Tan: So, you know, that's funny because when, interns or when trainees come and join me, one of the things I tell them is that they have to watch three movies, right?

[00:05:46] They have to watch three movies. They have to watch, " 12 Angry Men". They have to watch "The Verdict" and they have to watch "My Cousin Vinny". And sometimes I add to that "A Civil Action.". What's all this? Well, these are movies that I feel reflect different sides of being a lawyer. And especially for interns, when we have them, they come to our office.

[00:06:12] They haven't started law school. Some of them haven't even thought about pursuing law. They want to intern at a law firm to understand what it is that lawyers really do. The first time I entered a law firm for an interview, the lift door opened, I stepped onto a floor and I was surrounded by stacks and stacks and stacks of paper files, and I got so depressed straight away, and I thought, this is an awful thing.

[00:06:38] I, I don't think I want to be in a place that is full of files. So when interns come and see us, they might see that, and as a, as an antidote, I ask them to watch these movies. For example, "A Civil Action" is a movie that's about a personal injury class action in the US but it's also about, how lawyers work to make a claim.

[00:07:06] Sometimes I include "A Few Good Men" into that mix. " The Verdict" by Paul Newman is, is a great movie that shows practice from a sole proprietor's perspective. And sometimes I recommend them to watch "The Pupil". 

[00:07:20] "The Pupil" is a Singaporean TV series that I was involved in, I helped to create, and it's an award-winning TV series that showed how a young woman joins a law firm as a trainee.

[00:07:35] And in those days we call her a pupil. And what she learned as she worked with lawyers in Singapore. It's not like "Suits" at all. We wrote it as an antidote to "Suits". 

[00:07:47] Lara Quie: Well, that sounds like a really fun project to have been involved in. But let's get back to your early days. So you mentioned you had a friend whose father was a lawyer, so that was your first taste, but you know, what led to you actually entering the legal profession?

[00:08:04] Adrian Tan: So, once I thought that being a lawyer was a good thing, I decided to read a little bit more about what lawyers did and at that time, and we're talking about in the 1970s and 1980s, there wasn't really much to tell me about what the life of a lawyer would be like.

[00:08:25] So I just took the plunge. I applied for law school and I got in. I enjoyed four years of law school. And then I thought, well, now I'm going to try and apply to join a law firm, but I'm not sure that I will be able to have the stamina to see this through. And I thought, I have a fallback career in advertising that that was my fallback career.

[00:08:50] And I, I knew nothing about advertising. Right? I just thought, okay, that would be, that, that would be a sort of a safety net or a parachute. But if you're looking for that one moment where I thought, let me be a lawyer. It was really reading "To Kill A Mockingbird".

[00:09:07] Lara Quie: And so what about the process of getting your training and what was that like in those days? 

[00:09:15] Adrian Tan: I see. Well, so let me take you back to the 1980s. So, this is before the internet. Before we had mobile phones. Before we had pagers. Before we had a lot of things. 1980s, 1990s. when I, entered a law firm, the thing I saw was stacks and stacks of files.

[00:09:38] I was, one of many pupils in a very big law firm, and it was called Drew & Napier. Drew & Napier is one of the big four law firms in Singapore. It's very famous for litigation, which is something I wanted to do. And I was assigned to a pupil master, which means a very senior lawyer whose job it is to supervise me and to make sure that I learn stuff. And so I would go from room to room. This gawky sort of big headed guy looking for stuff to do. And the first thing a very senior lawyer said, "okay, Adrian, come here, come here. Let me tell you the most important skill that a lawyer should have."

[00:10:21] And I said, "okay, what is that? What is that?" Then he says, "giving dictation. If you know how to give dictation, you can use this skill for the rest of your life." So I said, "oh, uh, really?" He says, "yes, yes. Because what happens is lawyers write a lot of letters, but we don't actually write them because we don't actually type."

[00:10:43] He's very proud of this. "We don't, we don't touch a typewriter or a keyboard. What we do. Is this." And so, I stood on one side and he summoned his secretary, and his secretary came in with a little notepad and a pencil. And then he said, "take this down. With reference to your letter of 14 June, we reject your proposal full stop. New paragraph. Our counter proposal is as follows, colon number one, blah, blah, blah." And he dictated, I don't have that skill, you notice. But he smoothly dictated a letter. And then after he dictated stuff like submissions and pleadings and he would just use his voice to frame arguments, to frame correspondence and to say things.

[00:11:34] And then his secretary run off and type it all up and then bring a piece of paper and it's called a draft. A draft. And then he would take his pen and he would make amendments a couple of times, and then he would say to his secretary "Engross it." What does engross it mean? Engross it means to put it on the letterhead.

[00:11:57] That means that's the final copy. And then his secretary would put it on the letterhead and bring it to him, and then he would sign off his on it, and it would then be put in an envelope with a stamp on it. And then twice a day, someone would pick up these envelopes and bring them to the post office and mail them out.

[00:12:19] And a couple of days later, the other law firm will receive his letter and a couple of days after that, the other law firm would write back. And then so we would get our reply in the following week, and that was it. That was the life, that was the pace. And I thought, okay, okay. Apparently, this senior lawyer has kindly told me that the number one skill to learn is to take dictation.

[00:12:45] And then he said, "okay, and for a lawyer, your number one asset is to have a secretary. That's your number one asset." I said, "all right, that's fine." And he said, "and the number one skill that your secretary should have is shorthand." And shorthand is a way of making marks on a piece of paper that symbolize phonetics or bits of sound, that when you put together form words. It's a special skill.

[00:13:13] It takes a very long time to learn. Newspaper reporters used to know how to do it. Shorthand and secretaries in a law firm were paid lots and lots of money if they could master this skill. So they would, then type it up on electric typewriters. sometimes if the secretary wasn't around the lawyer would dictate into a special machine and then the secretary would put on her headphones and listen to them and type it.

[00:13:40] And the thing I'm trying to get across to you is that the skill that he thought was very valuable vanished. The need for it vanished within a few years of me becoming a lawyer. Before long, we were all sending emails and the older lawyers thought, emails are no different from normal letters.

[00:13:59] So they began dictating emails to their secretaries. Come in so and so, and then they would say, um, take your dictation. Send an email to such and such law firm. "Dear Sir, with reference your 14th February letter, blah, blah, blah." And then they'd type it and then it print out a draft of the email and then they'll bring it to the lawyer.

[00:14:21] The lawyer correct it, and then he would say, "engross it" and then the secretary would then send the email across from her email machine. The idea that a lawyer would type his own letters was weird. I learned typing in national service. And that's military service for, those in the other 49 countries and for listeners in the other 49 countries, all men have to spend two years in military service in Singapore. 

[00:14:48] And I spent those two years as a reporter. I had to learn typing skills and so I could type pretty well. And then I, remember typing my own letters because I had a secretary, but I was a lot faster than my secretary. And I would say, "oh no, don't worry. You go home and I'll type my own letters."

[00:15:07] I mean, they're not very difficult. And then one of the senior lawyers came up to me and said, "my goodness, what are you doing?" And I said, " nothing. I'm doing letters." He said, " You're not a secretary. Why are you using a typewriter? If you need to write something, get a piece of paper and a pen and write it."

[00:15:27] I said, "but I'm not used to writing. I like to type." And the, the senior lawyer said, "no, no, it's not for us. Lawyers can't be seen typing letters. It's so menial. Just, you know, we, we are here to use our brains. Uh, don't, don't type your own letters. Even if you can, don't, don't let people see you do it." so you don't have these boundaries, Lara, at the time. And, uh, they all quickly vanished. 

[00:15:53] Lara Quie: Yeah, it's fascinating and it's quite fun to hear you recount these things because actually I was a trainee in 1998 to 2000. And so in those days, yes, it was like that as well with the dictation machines. I used to love the little, tiny cassettes.

[00:16:11] They were quite cute. 

[00:16:13] Adrian Tan: Yes, that's right. So there were these special voice recording machines that were just cassette players and these cute little to the cassettes and you put them in and then you walk around and speak into them and look very serious and thoughtful, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

[00:16:30] Lara Quie: Yeah, I thought I'd made it, you know, when I had my own dictation machine. But as you say though, it's quite a skill. It's actually very difficult to be able to structure a letter in that way, or pleadings, you know, without writing it down. So I'm definitely someone who would prefer to see it on the page, move things around. And then do you remember when Carpe Diem came in and we had to start recording our time in six minute increments?

[00:16:58] Adrian Tan: Oh, yes. Yeah, we had a version of that. That's such a change from the way old time lawyers practice. But I'll tell you one benefit of dictation, and that is that the lawyers who could give good dictation spoke in complete sentences, had thoughts that flowed from A to B, to C to D and never said things like, Hmm or Oh and never finished their sentences halfway or trailed off. They spoke clearly all the way through because that's what they were taught to do just by talking to their secretaries. So when they went to court, they would do the same thing. They would speak in complete sentences, whole paragraphs framed in their mind without any pause or any ums or arms or stammers.

[00:17:47] If they needed to correct themselves, they could do it very smoothly. All that was lost. So when the younger generation says, ah, so silly to not type your own emails. Yeah, I agree. I agree. we should be able to type our own emails, but at the same time, we are lawyers, and we should be able to speak clearly without any pauses, interruptions, or little verbal ticks. We should be able to have smooth flowing ideas and to bring everything to a nice conclusion. Nowadays, young lawyers are great at writing. They are great at many skills. And the one thing I would like them to learn is the old-fashioned way of talking to a person or talking to a crowd.

[00:18:31] That's a performance issue. That means it's all about drama, it's about coherence. It's also about breathing and practice, and something that you can get better at if you are focused on it and you rehearse.

[00:18:48] I feel that with the age of social media when we tweet or when we WhatsApp, we, when we use contractions and we talk in a very familiar and lazy way, we forget how to speak formally. We forget how to write formally and write in an engaging way so that people want to pay attention and they're interested in our ideas. This is probably what I would like us to remember now in the 21st century.

[00:19:19] Lara Quie: And you are someone who has developed incredible writing skills over the years, and certainly as a young person, you already wrote those "Teenage Textbooks". So how did you hone your writing skills and what inspires you still today to write so well? 

[00:19:37] Adrian Tan: Oh, that's very kind of you, Lara. So what happened was this in national service, I ended up being a reporter writing for the military newsletter. Here's our latest tank and here's a great speech given by some government minister. Oh, here's a military exercise. Here's the latest combat rations. We're changing our helmets. This is why the new helmet is good. The old helmet wasn't so good and so on. And I had to be trained to write by an old school newspaper editor.

[00:20:09] So when you watch movies from the seventies and eighties, sometimes you see a newsroom, full of all these, short sleeved reporters, hunched over type writers usually with thick horn rimmed spectacles and cigarettes dangling out your mouth and saying, hold the front page. So I had one of those. His name was, Colin Fernandez, and he taught me how to write.

[00:20:30] And he was this, grey haired, big eyed tiny man who's very experienced in journalism. And he explained to me how to write a news story. How to write a feature. How to interview people. How to report things without giving your own emotion or opinion into it, and what the different types of writing were.

[00:20:53] And then he made me do that every day over and over again for a couple of years. And then at the end of it, I started writing magazines. That's because I needed to earn some pocket money. As I, as I moved from the army to university, I had to find ways to support myself. So I went to magazines, and I met editors and said, do you need a reporter?

[00:21:17] Do you need a writer? And I was just a teenager. And they said, well, um, okay, but you're a teenager. What we need is someone to write about this and that. There was a magazine, there was a one of these yuppy magazines no. In the eighties, a yuppie was a young upwardly mobile professional. Think of it as someone who's like an investment banker or someone who worked in an executive position.

[00:21:45] And these people were always buying expensive watchers and cars. And the magazine catered to their consumer lifestyle, and it was for men. So the editor said, well, what we want is for someone to write stuff for these young upwardly mobile men. You know, like clothes to wear, what cars to buy, and, you know, whether the latest places to go to drink and eat .

[00:22:10] So I said, of course I can do that. Although I didn't have a clue. I didn't have a clue. I didn't have any money and I didn't own a car. I didn't even have a job. But I said, all right, I mean, I can do that. I adopted a pen name and every month I would write stories about latest things that all these yuppies men should do, what they should wear, how they should treat their girlfriends, stuff like that.

[00:22:37] And 14 things to do on a date, blah, blah. And, uh, it, I would always name drop all these luxury items that I thought these, um, yuppies would want. And I was still very young, so I adopted a very old persona. And I sort of talked a little bit down to them as being the wise, the wise head that's been there.

[00:22:59] And, the magazine said, okay, yeah, we think these stories work. And they paid me 15 cents a word for my stories. And so with that, I was able to put myself through university. So I always think I put myself through university through my writing at 15 cents a word. And then one day, at a party in this, publisher came up to me and says, no, I know you.

[00:23:22] And I said, yes, yes. I used to be a debater in school so people would know me because they'd see me on TV debating. And the publisher said, what are you doing here at this party? I said, I write for these people under this pen name. Then I showed him my articles and he says, ah, you should write a book.

[00:23:39] So I said, I've never written a book. And, uh, he says, yeah, I should write a novel. And I said, oh, okay. You know what? I can write a science fiction novel with rocket ships and exploding stars and all that. That was the age of Star Wars. So the publisher said, you should write about stuff that you know.

[00:24:00] And I'm like, oh, that could be quite offensive, I suppose. I am sure I know something about rocket ships. He said, no, I don't see you writing a, a science fiction. What else do you know? So I said, I don't really know very much. I just finished junior college. I finished, two years in Hwa Chong, which is a junior college.

[00:24:20] And that was the first time I met girls because for 10 years I studied in an all-boys school called Anglo Chinese School. And then at the age of 17, I just went to a school called Hwa Chong and for the first time met girls. And that was a very interesting time in my life. So the publisher said, okay, go and write that.

[00:24:39] Write me a book about that experience. And I thought, oh, this is very strange thing to write about. So I went back and during the school vacation, during my first year of law school, we had a vacation. And I got a little Commodore computer, which is a very, primitive sort of computer and its total memory, was 5k.

[00:25:00] Nowadays we talk about computers. How many gigabytes? This is not gigabytes; this is not megabytes. This is 5k. And I had a 5K computer. And I had a dot matrix printer, the sort that goes brrr rah rah. And then I spent my vacation writing and I wrote about my life in a junior college. Except that me being me, I always have to adopt some persona because I like to tell people what to do.

[00:25:28] And there are only two kinds of people, that can tell other people what to do and that is a king or a textbook. And in Singapore, we are very academic society. We have a paper chase, and our students they're taught to respect textbooks. They're taught that all the answers can be found in a school textbook.

[00:25:49] And I wanted to write a story where a textbook tries to teach you about life, especially about romance. And the textbook gets it wrong all the time. So in my book, I call it the Teenage textbook, a girl meets a boy in a junior college. That's a lot like mine, suspiciously like mine, but I changed the names and because both of them are very new to relationships, they consult this thing called the Teenage Textbook, which is structured like a classroom textbook, which gives lessons and examples and tests and quizzes on how to talk to somebody that you like, how to tell if somebody likes you.

[00:26:28] Stuff like that. And remember, this was the eighties, so it's all very new nowadays. You have social media and you think, oh, Facebook has a quiz. What sort of, uh, car are you? Or how do you tell if he's flirting with you? This is 2023. But I'm talking about the 1980s where all this was very new.

[00:26:47] And so each time the young people followed the life lessons of a textbook, they got it wrong and they messed it up. And in the end when they abandoned the textbook and they just relied on other instincts and other ideas, they found happiness. Spoiler alert, I should say. Oh gosh. Alright. Too bad. Okay guys.

[00:27:09] So, you know, those of you who have not read "The Teenage Textbook", you know that it has a happy ending. It's a romance and a comedy. So, I wrote that in three months and brought it to my publisher. And my publisher said, Hmm, okay, we could do this very strange kind of book he thought, but, Okay. So it was a novel that had a textbook inside and, he just threw it into this thing called the Singapore Book Festival.

[00:27:35] So every year in September, there's this huge festival at Singapore's World Trade Centre, and people all over the country and all over the region come down and book publishers launched their new books there. This is the latest from so and so. This is the latest from so and so. So in 1988, during my, school vacation, I was there.

[00:27:55] My publisher said, okay, great, great news. I published 2000 copies of your book. And what we'll do is, we are gonna sell them at the book fair. So I said, okay. And, you know, nobody knows me, right? So he said, it's true, it's true. So I said, so how are we gonna sell 2000 copies? Because if you sell 2000 copies, that's something, let me give you an idea.

[00:28:19] In Singapore for the English language, if you sell in a week, a hundred, 200 copies, you are on the bestseller list for Singapore. And he wanted me to sell 2000 copies in a week. So I said, uh, nobody knows me, nobody knows, uh, this book. And we're in the middle of the Singapore book Fair. There's competition everywhere.

[00:28:40] There's famous writers. I can see them walking around, and you want us to outsell them? He put his hand on my shoulders. He says, don't worry. Uh, try your best. And then he went off to get a curry puff. So I stood there and had all these books, and then people walk by and I would say, hello, buy a book?

[00:28:58] and they would say, what's this book about? I said, well, you know, uh, look, just read it, read a little bit. Um, you can stand here and read it. Don't take it away because it costs you $7 and 80 cents. Each book I would get 10%. So, $7. 80 cents, I would get 78 cents. After a while there was a crowd and I began to sort of talk about the book very generally and tell jokes because you know what I'm like, after a while if there's a crowd, I'll start sort of riffing on them and I'll say, oh, let me read you a bit from this.

[00:29:31] And oh, you should buy this for your son, and so on and so on. So the first day we sold quite a few, and then, the next day some people came back and said, oh, we bought your book. And you know what? we read it and we couldn't put it down and we finished it in the night.

[00:29:45] It was quite funny and it was not, it's not a very thick book. It's not War in Peace, Lara. it's pretty short and it's not written in a heavy, serious way. It's just fun, fun kind of thing. So they said, oh, all right, surprisingly, we finished it. And I said, oh, great. Okay. And they said, we'll get a few copies for our friends.

[00:30:03] We think it'll be fun. Only $7.80 cents. So more and more people came on the second day, third day. And before long, my publisher, like who's always finishing his curry puffs, came over and said, ah, I see, you know what, we've, sold quite a lot of our books and, I think we need to print some more. So I said, Hey, what about the 2000 that you printed?

[00:30:23] He says, oh, I think you've sold about a thousand, which is pretty good. I said, whoa, okay, what does this mean? And he says, oh, I'm gonna tell the organizers. So it was a newspaper article that came out and then people began buying it. And, very quickly it went onto the bestseller list and more and more people, bought it.

[00:30:42] And my publisher said, we're gonna do a reprint. A reprint is when you print another 2000 copies. And then after the second reprint, he said, oh, it's been sold out, we're gonna do another one. And eventually he did, I think, uh, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, reprints. So many reprints.

[00:31:07] He kept coming back and saying, oh, we're gonna do more reprints. And so in a year, my book got onto the Straits Times bestseller list and it went to number one and it stayed on number one for a year. And that made me all my school fees and stuff for law school. My publisher then said, you should write a sequel, because you have these other characters and we're all very interested in them, so you should write about them.

[00:31:33] And I said, yes, yes, I was going to. So I spent my second year vacation writing about them too. And then it came out, and that was the sequel to the "Teenage Textbook" called " The Teenage Workbook". And that sold even more copies. So that stayed on the bestseller list at number one for another year.

[00:31:53] And for many months I was number one and number two on the bestseller list in Singapore, which is a small island, but it was a big deal for me, and I managed to save up a little bit of money. So that I could, support myself through university. And a little bit after that when I started my pupillage. The books were made into a movie, became a TV series stage play, and people remember it, even though it was written in 1988, the sequel was in 1989.

[00:32:21] They still remember it today. So when you talk about writing, I think if you write a lot, which is what I did, and you have a nice teacher who teaches you how to write and you practice and practice and practice and practice, after a while, you can become good at it. And that's what I think also for social media. 

[00:32:42] So a lot of times, uh, social media people think of it as very short little snippets of things. One sentence, one tweet, one, image, one meme, oh, that's very funny. And move on. But social media can be more than that. You can use it to, put across ideas. You can use it to have a long form argument.

[00:33:05] I never thought about that. But when I started, in my current law firm, TSMP, and here I'm gonna change my virtual background..... This is my law firm, T S M P. so my boss, Stephanie, Stephanie Yuen, and she said, ah, you are the, you know, we are good friends for many years, she said, you're the writer, but you don't write very much on social media. And at that time, once I became a lawyer, I wanted everybody to think of me as this very serious and deep person, the lawyer. I didn't want people to think of me as the guy who wrote these teenage romances.

[00:33:44] So, every time my clients would meet me and say, ah, I read your book, "Teenage Textbook", I would brush them aside. I would try not to acknowledge it because in my own warped way of thinking, I thought, you can't be two things at once. You can't be a serious lawyer and at the same time be the guy who wrote a funny book.

[00:34:04] So that's why I put that aside. For many years I didn't want to, to be reminded of it. I didn't talk about it. I, I didn't wanna follow up of writing any other fiction because I thought, ah, I just want to be a lawyer. And then Stephanie said, mm, well, since you're a writer, it would be a pity if you don't write more.

[00:34:26] And you can start by writing on LinkedIn. Don't write on Instagram and you can't use TikTok. Please don't use TikTok. She said, but try LinkedIn, try writing about stuff. So I said, really? What, what, what can I say? So she said, um, any, anything you like.

[00:34:45] So I said, does it have to be law stuff? She said, No, you just should write about what you think. So I went on LinkedIn a few years ago, and my first few attempts were very awful. I wrote stuff like, like a lot of stuff you see on LinkedIn today, which is, uh, I got this award, I won this case.

[00:35:07] So humble to be part of the team that got silver medal in, ah, Lara. Don't remind me of that. But, but then I thought, I can't, I can't, I can't bring myself to write this. I can't. then Stephanie said, just write some opinion pieces. Write what you think about stuff. So I said, Ooh, my opinions? Do you know that if I write my opinions, I'll get into a lot of trouble then she thought I don't think you're that important, to be honest.

[00:35:35] You, you can write whatever you like. I don't think the government is gonna arrest you. There's not gonna be a social revolution because Adrian Tan wrote something on LinkedIn and at first I wrote very safe stuff like, oh, there's this new policy. On the one hand it's good. On the other hand it could be bad, but overall it could be good or bad or good or bad.

[00:35:56] Maybe it's not neither and then she said to me, don't you have an opinion? I said, of course I do. I'm not gonna write it if I write it. Like people will get upset. And she kept pushing me and pushing me. So in the end I said, all right, okay, okay. I'm going to write stuff. I'm gonna write what I really think. If there's stuff that I want to change, I'm, I'm gonna say it, but instead of saying it in a very blunt way, like, I think the government is wrong, I think they should do this.

[00:36:27] Instead of saying it so bluntly, I would say it in an more indirect, maybe light-hearted way to say that, you know what, if I was running the country as the prime minister, I would do this. Then I thought, because that's still very critical. I shouldn't say stuff like that. Maybe I should say if I was King of Singapore, how about that?

[00:36:45] Because there isn't a king, right? So I'm not gonna offend the current King of Singapore. So I began writing things that I thought should be changed. And I began saying, well, if I were King of Singapore, I would change it in this way. I'll make this rule, I'll make, uh, I'll make everybody stop smoking. It was one of my ideas.

[00:37:06] Everybody who's born after a certain year should not be allowed to smoke. There should be more cats in public housing or, women should do national service, stuff like that. And, that's how I began writing on LinkedIn. And after a while, people, began following me and sharing my posts and talking about the stuff that I felt was important.

[00:37:30] So that encouraged me. And the other thing that encouraged me was people began messaging me. Some of them, my old friends, this is the thing about social media, it's very good for, for reuniting with old friends. They would say, Hey, remember me from so and so and I'll be like, oh, right, right. So nice to meet you.

[00:37:47] And they would say, yeah, we, we just read your article on this. So that became a good thing and that's how I ended up writing on LinkedIn, Lara.

[00:37:56] Lara Quie: Well, it's fantastic what you've done on LinkedIn, Adrian, and, uh, you know, it's great that we know that we need to thank Stephanie for all her encouragement and bravery to let you, express your opinion. But you're right, everything about LinkedIn is authenticity. and people want to hear opinions and they want people to share true experiences.

[00:38:18] And the interactive nature of it is what's so exciting, isn't it? Because when people comment Yes. And then you can reply. Yes. It's those conversations and as you said, people that started to reach out to you and there is the direct messaging, on the platform as well, and then you can meet people in person. So tell me a bit about the people that you've met through your LinkedIn experience. 

[00:38:45] Adrian Tan: Okay, so first I got to say it's a myth. A myth that you're gonna get more business through LinkedIn at least speaking for myself. It's not a case where people write to me and say, eh, I just read your post on X, Y, Z, and I think you should fight this case. It's not, it's not really about that for me. I think what I want to do with LinkedIn is to have a soapbox to tell people my views, to talk about issues in a more focused way. When we read the news, correctly just reports facts without opinion.

[00:39:22] The other thing the news doesn't do is it doesn't provide a platform for comment, for reaction, for debate. You can't, in many of our news sites, there isn't a little comments section after that in the Financial Times newspaper, they have a comments section and it's always very interesting and that's what I enjoy reading.

[00:39:42] A lot of times I enjoy reading the comments that people have. Sometimes when I watch something on social media, let's say on YouTube, I'm also interested to see how others react to it. And part of what I enjoy on LinkedIn is to have a debate or to have a discussion on an issue. When I first got into LinkedIn, it was during the lockdown when Covid started in 2020.

[00:40:06] But before that, I would just meet my friends for coffee and we would have all these deep discussions about the meaning of life or about why the latest government policies wrong or about how, uh, how if only the world did this and this and this would all be so much happier. And then the lockdown happened and I couldn't do all that.

[00:40:28] I couldn't, tell people how they could fix the world. Then the LinkedIn idea came along and I thought, okay, okay, maybe, maybe this is my way of carrying on the conversation. So if many people who read my posts, write to me and say, oh, what we really enjoy are the comments that follow.

[00:40:49] Because if you think about social media, there's a few thoughts. There is the thoughts for very young people where they just post funny things and the reaction is an emoji. Then there's Facebook where if you post something, even if it's a thought, an idea, you have a lot of people just giving abusive comments, one word, comments or short comments that are just meant to trigger or troll others.

[00:41:17] And that's because for that type of social media, people don't have to be authentic. They don't even have to be real. They have fake photographs. They have fake names and so they hide behind a shield of anonymity, and they just spew hatred because they're not there to talk about ideas. The thing about LinkedIn is that it's full of real people.

[00:41:35] It's full of real people because we know that this person looks like this from this photograph, studied in this university, went to this company, and worked here and worked in, and has posted on other things. And generally, the profile of LinkedIn users is more educated. They are serious and they are identifiable.

[00:41:58] They're who they say they are. So when they comment, they don't comment, with foul language or they're not out to stab someone. They may disagree, but they'll explain why they disagree because it's LinkedIn. So the platform becomes very civilized and the sort of comments that you read after each post, they're usually quite respectful and they will start with something positive.

[00:42:22] Like, well, I agree with what you say on this point, and this is very valid. And, and then they'll put in a sort of a polite disagreement where, but have you ever thought of, you know, this angle, or, you know, I have a different experience and let me tell you what happened. And I feel that social media needs a lot more of that.

[00:42:40] So I want to be, I want to be part of that. I wanna be part of identifying an issue, putting across an opinion in a coherent way, and then giving a platform to different voices to have that conversation. Sometimes when I look at posts on LinkedIn, there are a lot of good ideas, but they're very short.

[00:42:59] They're very short. I meet other lawyers, young lawyers, and they talk about social media and then they say, oh, Adrian, you know, your LinkedIn posts, they're very long. I've never read anything so long. It's interesting, but it's long. And I think really is it that long?

[00:43:15] They say, yeah, for social media, you usually just put a couple of sentences and you've gotta have a very big photograph of yourself doing something. And that's a different style, which, I must say I can't relate to. So when it started, I deliberately just wanted to write as much as possible with as much detail as possible, with as much thought as possible and how it works is, I'm usually at home or at my desk in the office, and then I'll come across an issue, a news article that someone sends me, and I'll get very upset. 

[00:43:48] What is this? What nonsense are they doing now? And then, I'll furiously type out something on social media. CNN has just said this about Singapore and the Queen. Very, very annoyed. This is why. Take that CNN. And then I send it off and immediately I'm seized by regret. I'm thinking, oh my gosh, what have I done? Oh, well, too bad. And then the comments all come in. So that's just a day in the life. 

[00:44:16] Lara Quie: I love that. That's you as a keyboard warrior. But yeah, you are right. The thing that attracts people so much to your posts is the level of thought and the length of the posts. They are unusually long, well considered and tell a fantastic story. You can see that you are a reporter in terms of being able to identify facts, the crux of the matter, the issues your debating that you used to do as a young person is coming through the replies to comments. You always make very good, insightful replies. Not just thank you for your comment, but actually exploring why they've held this other opinion, you know, so you carry on the conversation and that's what LinkedIn needs. But it's also the fact that it's great to have a lot of variety because it's fun in your feed to have maybe just one quote and then the next post has got a cool photo and the next post has got a funny video that's entertaining.

[00:45:17] And it depends on how you are feeling at the time. Sometimes I must admit, I need to come back to your post because I haven't got time to read the full thing, but I'll come back and then I'll look at it and I'll, I'll usually make a comment as well. And I think that has really lifted your profile, but I would say, your comment about it not bringing work, I think that's a lot to do with the way that you are using LinkedIn.

[00:45:42] You are very much using it as the ability to share your voice. You said soapbox, you know, you're getting on your soapbox, expressing your opinion, telling people about a situation, a story, et cetera. But if you were to change your narrative to be, "Hey folks, actually I'm a partner at T S M P. Did you know that I'm head of intellectual property and technology? I could help you with your cases." 

[00:46:08] I think actually if you interspersed your fantastic storytelling with a reminder to people every now and again, you would be surprised that you would get interest on that, but perhaps it's the fact that you are not using it in that way. So you will have seen that there are certain lawyers who use it very deliberately for thought leadership for showing their expertise in their given area of practice.

[00:46:34] And so, those people can do great things for profile raising. It leads to speaking engagements. They're able to get people to see their articles, et cetera. So what advice would you give to a younger lawyer who is interested in harnessing the power of LinkedIn to grow their personal brand?

[00:46:55] Adrian Tan: Wow. I feel that the best thing for any lawyer to do is to show the client who he or she is. The client is a person who is an unknown and who wants to engage us to do something important. And the client wants to know who we are, how smart we are, how decent we are, how articulate we are.

[00:47:22] The client wants to know all that. The client wants to know as much as possible about who we are. And as a young lawyer, we don't get a lot of opportunity to showcase ourselves. Usually we're number three or number four in the team. We don't get to speak, take notes at a meeting we're the person who arranges the Zoom calls.

[00:47:45] We hardly have a chance to shine while social media, especially LinkedIn is the platform to shine. But how do you do it? It's quite vulgar to write I'm a great lawyer. Here's a list of my most famous cases and here's a picture of my certificate.

[00:48:05] I guess if I was a young lawyer, I'd definitely be writing around my expertise. So let's say my expertise is AI, artificial intelligence, and the law. I would do a book review on a book that I've read about AI and the law, or I would write a post about how the law has gaps concerning AI. I like intellectual property, so I might write about how an AI can or cannot claim intellectual property. For example, if an AI wrote a novel. Can the AI claim copyright? There's a famous case of a monkey that took a selfie of itself and the court said that there was no copyright because copyright has to be owned by a human. So the human who set up the camera for the monkey to take the selfie, that human couldn't claim copyright either.

[00:48:53] So can the same be said of an AI is an AI like a monkey or is it something more? The more you write about AI, the more your readers would say, Hey, okay, so whenever I think about AI, I think about so-and-so because so-and-so's been writing about this topic a lot, a very interesting way. So I feel that if I have an AI related question, I'll go and ask so and so.

[00:49:16] It doesn't even have to be about law. So let's say you're a young lawyer, but you have a passion for the environment or passion for let's say inclusivity, you can write about that even though it has no law aspects at all. The environment, what we're doing, blah, blah, blah. I think readers are very sensitive to bragging. 

[00:49:39] They're very able to smell out someone who is secretly trying to say that they're very good at something, and then it spoils the whole effect. So don't try and sell yourself. Just try and show yourself and be yourself. So for young lawyers, and I've encouraged my young lawyers too, but I know they're very busy and that's always an issue.

[00:50:01] But for young lawyers, the important thing is to just get started on 1 or 2 things, that are close to you and write and I can guarantee you one thing. The first 10 or 20 posts that you write, no one will read it. No one will remember it. No one will comment on it. No one will like it. No one will share it.

[00:50:18] And that's okay. That's fine. It happened to me too. This is how things start. Great things come from little things. So just get going. And don't imagine that success will come overnight. Think of it as practice. I spent many years writing things that no one read, and no one remembers. And that's all practice for me anyway.

[00:50:41] So for young people, it's a discipline as well, because one of the skills, and we talked about it at the beginning of this show, was about speaking versus writing. And it's true that young people write a lot today, but I need them to write in different ways. So I notice that young lawyers, they write very well as lawyers, but then when they write to human beings, to clients, for example, they still write as lawyers, very serious, very procedural, step one, step two, step three. Very long sentences, very long words, very complicated stuff.

[00:51:14] And I always remind them. Okay. When you write in this context, you can be technical and serious, but when you write to your client, your client is a human being and you have to write different. I always tell them, "you have to write in a way that a six year old child or a small dog would understand." And I'm serious.

[00:51:36] Don't write sentences that are longer than 20 words. Don't use foreign words. Use only English words. Don't use anything more than three syllables and don't use commas. When you feel that you need to use a comma, use a full stop and stop your sentence. Don't use adjectives. Just state the facts.

[00:51:54] Explain yourself all the time, and then reread what you've written and make sure that it's simple and clear. So I encourage young people, to have different styles of writing, and that's where social media helps because it gets you out of that lawyer mode, step one, step two, step three, this definition that concept, blah, blah, blah, gets you out of that and gets you talking in a more natural voice.

[00:52:20] Because media's audience is not lawyers. For us, when we talk to lawyers too often, we become very technical and social media encourages us to explain complicated things to a general group of people. And so we have to really get to the essence, not dumb down, but find the real issue and talk about that.

[00:52:40] The more we practice that, even if no one reads our posts, the better we become. So when we talk to our clients, our clients feel that, oh, I understand what he's saying. I can make a decision. I think that's very clear. So it's a great training ground. 

[00:52:53] Lara Quie: That's fantastic advice. I completely agree with you. It's so tempting as a lawyer to demonstrate your intelligence and mastery of the law, but ultimately that doesn't serve your client. Actually, it is better to be simple and concise and get to the point for them and also to display empathy and understanding. 

[00:53:15] Adrian Tan: Yes. 

[00:53:16] Lara Quie: That is so important. In fact, more important. And that's why the authenticity that you can, practice in LinkedIn, is so important. That muscle, as you say, not to be overly lawyerly .Actually, it's a skill to simplify things and as a lawyer, we're to translate the law into the everyday for people, even though your clients are in-house counsel mostly, and other lawyers, but still, how do you translate it into their commercial context?

[00:53:47] How are you giving them the answers to what they asked? And how are you coming across as somebody who's helpful to them? And so those are the main things. But I'm very conscious of the time, Adrian, I feel like we need part two to this because we've literally only just scratched the surface.

[00:54:05] And I was going to ask you so much about being President of the Law Society and all of these things. We haven't got onto those. Sorry. So we'll have to do a part two, perhaps that's what we'll do. Yes. All right. But for this episode, let's just end on your top three pieces of advice for a young lawyer today. 

[00:54:26] Adrian Tan: Write for a six year old. Number two, best idea first. That means if you have 10 arguments that you want to make, don't start with your worst one. Or don't start with blah, blah, blah, and then bury your best argument somewhere. And if you think, I don't know which my best argument is, then stop writing and think about it.

[00:54:47] Which is your best, best argument? And then the third one is ask someone else to read what you've written, especially if that person has got nothing to do with your case. Maybe it's a lawyer that doesn't know the background or even better, maybe it's someone who's not even a lawyer. Say, Hey, do you mind reading this?

[00:55:04] And if that person reads it and says, okay, I understand what you say, I think you have a point. That's great. If that person says, oh, it's got a bit boring after the second page, then you know you are writing in a boring way. So don't be boring. And the best antidote is to ask someone else to read your writing.

[00:55:22] Lara Quie: Perfect. Thank you so much, Adrian, for your time today. I really appreciate all your sharing. I'm looking forward to part two. We'll definitely do another episode for our listeners. Let's see how many good comments you get on LinkedIn tomorrow. Oh dear. After they've heard the podcast. But yeah, I guess the best place to reach you is through LinkedIn or is there any other place you want people to get in contact? 

[00:55:52] Adrian Tan: LinkedIn is great also. My law firm, this one. TSMP. You can't tell this is virtual, right? You think it's real? But yes, I'm at T S M P and I can generally be found somewhere.

[00:56:05] Lara Quie: Brilliant. Thank you so much for your time, Adrian.

[00:56:08] Adrian Tan: Thanks, Lara. Nice seeing you again. 

[00:56:11] Lara Quie: I hope you enjoyed that episode. Do help others in the legal industry, particularly younger lawyers, who could benefit from listening to the podcast by sharing it with them. If you want to hear more, there are plenty of earlier episodes where other leaders share their stories and advice. 

[00:56:29] Please show your support and click on subscribe, and also give it a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Have a magical week ahead.