Re Sher Jules QC

JudgeLai Kew Chai J
Judgment Date08 July 2002
Neutral Citation[2002] SGHC 140
Docket NumberOriginating Motion No 600039 of
Date08 July 2002
Published date19 September 2003
Plaintiff CounselK Shanmugam SC and Prakash Pillai (Allen & Gledhill),Cavinder Bull (Drew & Napier)
Citation[2002] SGHC 140
Defendant CounselLaurence Goh (Laurence Goh Eng Yau & Co),Hema Subramanian (State Counsel)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Subject Matters 21(1) Legal Profession Act (Cap 161, 2001 Ed),Whether issues in suit sufficiently complex to warrant admission of Queen's Counsel,Ad hoc admission of Queen's Counsel,Legal Profession,Three-stage test for admission,Admission



By this originating motion, Mr Jules Sher QC ("Mr Sher") sought ad hoc admission under s 21 of the Legal Profession Act (Cap 161) ("the Act") as an advocate and solicitor of this court to appear on behalf of Singapore Telecommunications Limited ("SingTel"), the defendant in Suit No. 934 of 2001/Y ("the suit") until its final disposal. In the suit, the plaintiff was claiming in restitution the sum of $388 million from SingTel on the ground that in making that payment to SingTel as part of the compensation it had made a mistake of law. Counsel for the plaintiff in the suit did not object to the application. The representative of the Attorney-General left the matter to the court. Counsel for the Law Society of Singapore, however, opposed the application. Initially, I was reluctant to order the ad hoc admission and I pressed Mr Shanmugam SC on the matter, commenting that he was working very hard out of a very interesting brief. In the end I was persuaded that the three-fold test laid down in Singapore by a long line of case-law was fulfilled. Bearing in mind the principles governing the exercise of my discretion as laid down by s 21(1) of the Act and case-law, I allowed the application. I now set out the background and the circumstances under which the facts were applied in accordance with the principles governing the admissions of QCs.

Section 21 of the Legal Profession Act

2 Section 21 of the Act states as follows:

"(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, the court may, for the purposes of any one case where the court is satisfied that it is of sufficient difficulty and complexity and having regard to the circumstances of the case, admit to practise as an advocate and solicitor any person who -

(a) holds Her Majesty’s Patent as Queen’s Counsel

(b) does not ordinarily reside in Singapore or Malaysia but who has come or intends to come to Singapore for the purpose of appearing in the case; and

(c) has special qualification or experience for the purpose of the case."

3 Mr Sher obtained the degree of Bachelor of Commerce followed by an LL.B at the University of Witwaterstrand, Johannesburg in 1964. He was awarded the degree Cum Laude and was awarded the Society of Advocates’ prize for the best law student over the three years of the LL.B course. He was called to the Bar in South Africa. He took the post-graduate Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford University, New College, in 1967 and was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 1968 by the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. He has practiced at the Bar of England and Wales since then. In 1981 he was appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel. He is a member of the Chancery Bar Association and the Commercial Bar Association. In 1987 he was appointed a Recorder and a Deputy High Court Judge in the Chancery Division in 1989 and more recently in the Queen’s Bench Division, Commercial Court.

4 Mr Sher has appeared as counsel in several cases in Singapore. At the time of his application he was instructed in a very large scale litigation in the Cayman Islands and in Hong Kong and other jurisdictions. In the United Kingdom he has appeared regularly in the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Privy Council and the House of Lords, both as junior and in silk. He appeared in William Sindall plc v Cambridgeshire County Council in the Court of Appeal [1994] 1 WLR 1016 which was a case involving mistake in the realm of contract and of relevance at the trial of the suit. He also appeared in South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council v Svenska International plc [1995] 1 All ER 545 which involved the law of contract and restitution and the defence of change of position, and which would also be relevant to the issues in the suit.

5 In the light of the very impressive credentials of Mr Sher, it was obvious that the requirements of special qualifications and experience under s 21(1) of the Act were not in issue before me.

6 For more than 10 years our courts have been dilating on s 21(1) of the Act. It was noted that the section was aimed at specifying some guidelines in the ad hoc admission of Queen’s Counsel. The objective was to help develop a strong core of good advocates at the local Bar, but it was also recognized that in the appropriate cases litigants would be allowed to avail themselves of the services of QCs. The guidelines were most usefully set out by Yong Pung How CJ in Re Caplan Jonathan Michael QC (No 2) [1998] 1 SLR 440 [para 11]:

At the first stage, the applicant must demonstrate that the case in which he seeks to appear contains issues of law and/or fact of sufficient difficulty and complexity to require elucidation and/or argument by a Queen’s Counsel. Such difficulty or complexity is not of itself a guarantee of admission, for the decision to admit is still a matter of the court’s discretion. At the second stage, therefore, the applicant must persuade the court that the circumstances of the particular case warrant the court exercising its discretion in favour of his admission. Finally, he has to satisfy the court of his suitability for admission.

7 In Re Flint Charles John Raffles QC [2001] 2 SLR 276 I had occasion to consider the import of s21(1) of the Act. Mr Flint applied for ad hoc admission to appear for a Malaysian company to recover substantial damages of about US$75 million against each of the then 30 defendants for, inter alia, conspiracy to defraud, equitable compensation and/or damages for breaches of contract of employment, fiduciary duties or inducement of breaches of contract and for dishonest assistance or as recipients of trust moneys. Local counsel in that case had played prominent roles in the pre-trial preparation of the case and had convincingly demonstrated before me in many interlocutory matters that he would ably assist the plaintiffs and the court. Much of the crucial leg-work had been done and such trial advocacy as would be required was well within the abilities of local counsel. I formed the view that the opportunity must be offered to the local Bar to take up the challenge and appear at the trial and...

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5 cases
  • Re Millar Gavin James QC
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 17 October 2007
    ......One was in Originating Motion No. 600039 of 2001 in which Jules Sher QC was admitted in July 2002 as counsel for Singtel in a case involving restitution. In the other case (Originating Motion No. 38 of 2007), ......
  • Re Joseph David QC
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 December 2011
    ...1 SLR (R) 510; [2006] 1 SLR 510 (distd) Price Arthur Leolin v AG [1992] 3 SLR (R) 113; [1992] 2 SLR 972 (refd) Sher Jules QC, Re [2002] 2 SLR (R) 377; [2002] 4 SLR 41 (refd) Syska v Vivendi Universal SA [2009] Bus LR 367; [2008] 2 Lloyd's Rep 636 (refd) International Arbitration Act (Cap 14......
  • Re Joseph David QC
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 12 December 2011
    ...notoriously difficult to satisfy. The complexity and difficulty of legal issues must be comparable to those raised in Re Sher Jules QC [2002] 2 SLR(R) 377 (“Sher Jules QC”) at [16], where the legal issues spanning the law of restitution and constitutional law were not just novel and not yet......
  • Haywood Management Ltd v Eagle Aero Technology Pte Ltd
    • Singapore
    • High Court (Singapore)
    • 19 August 2014
    ...James Michael v World Sport Group Pte Ltd [2014] 2 SLR 208 (folld) KLW Holdings Ltd v Singapore Press Holdings Ltd [2002] 2 SLR (R) 477; [2002] 4 SLR 417 (refd) Kuah Kok Kim v Ernst & Young [1996] 1 SLR (R) 478; [1996] 2 SLR 364, HC (refd) Kuah Kok Kim v Ernst & Young [1996] 3 SLR (R) 485; ......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Legal Profession
    • Singapore
    • Singapore Academy of Law Annual Review No. 2002, December 2002
    • 1 December 2002
    ...are desirable in order that the decision to be made may benefit from the widest possible ventilation of pertinent views. Re Sher Jules QC[2002] 4 SLR 41 would best be explained in this way although, at first blush, the case seemed to illustrate another novel situation in which local represe......

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