Address by the Chief Guest, His Lordship Justice Arjuna Obeysekere at Neetham Journal Launch 2022

  • The Vice Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Professor Srisatkunarajah,
  • Dean of the Faculty of Arts, University of Jaffna,
  • Head of the Department of Law, Ms. Kosalai Mathan,
  • My friend and former colleague at the Attorney General’s Department, President’s Counsel Priyantha Nawana, Senior Additional Solicitor General
  • Hon D S Soosaithas, Judge of the High Court, my former colleague at the Attorney General’s Department and the Guest of Honour this morning
  • Distinguished members of the Faculty of Arts and the Department of Law
  • Students
  • Ladies and Gentlemen. Good morning to all of you – Vanakkam

I am truly delighted to be present here today – incidentally my first visit to Jaffna – a beautiful and historical city, with a very rich cultural heritage. What adds to my delight is the honor of being here at the gracious invitation extended by the esteemed University of Jaffna renowned for its excellence in academic affairs. We’re celebrating the launch of the 8th edition of the Neetham, a substantial achievement in advancing legal scholarship within the academic community. I take pride in being a part of this significant moment.

The publication of a law journal represents a remarkable convergence of intellectual curiosity, critical analysis and the quest for pursuit of knowledge and understanding that are at the core of legal studies. This journal will no doubt serve as a springboard  for scholars, practitioners, and students to advance legal scholarship within the academic community and contribute to the ongoing evolution of legal thought.

I commend the dedicated efforts of the Department of Law, the Law Students Society, the editorial team, and contributors to expand the boundaries of legal understanding through rigorous legal research and insightful analysis. More particularly I applaud your passion and commitment to bring this edition of  Neetham to life. I have no doubt that the articles will provide valuable insights into the ever evolving landscape of law and become a source of inspiration and knowledge for generations of legal minds to come.

As we celebrate this launch, let us be mindful that the articles published herein have the ability to influence legal ideation and policy determinations. Let us use this platform not only to showcase our intellectual capabilities but also to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of the legal system and the society.

Ladies and Gentlemen,  I seek your permission to underscore a few crucial factors this morning that hold significant influence in shaping a brighter future for upcoming legal professionals as well as all of us entrenched in the legal field. Ultimately, these factors contribute to the betterment of society as a whole.

The students among this audience is currently pursuing your Bachelor’s in Law, the LLB. Subsequently, you might contemplate entering Sri Lanka Law College, undertaking its examinations with the aspiration of being accepted as an Attorney-at-Law of the Supreme Court. Irrespective of the path you opt for, I urge you to bear in mind that you must be adequately prepared to confront the intricacies of contemporary society and fulfill the expectations placed upon a legal practitioner.  As you embark on your journey towards success, a few pivotal factors demand your unwavering focus.

Firstly the importance of the proficiency in English Language, often considered a “lingua franca,” I was extremely happy when your President informed me that lectures and examinations are conducted in English. Observe your surroundings, and you’ll notice that a majority of legal resources are available in English. This encompasses not only documented legal precedents in law reports, but also articles covering diverse legal domains, legal literature, and online resources. The crux of my perspective lies in acknowledging English as the pivotal instrument capable of unlocking opportunities. Without attaining a commendable mastery of English, certain pathways shall invariably remain inaccessible. This does not negate the significance of your mother tongue –  embracing and understanding it is undeniably important. However, to thrive as a legal professional, a proficient command of English is imperative.

Secondly  your ability to use Technology as an integral tool in your work.  The world awaiting you upon the culmination of your LLB studies differs significantly from the world I entered back in 1992. During my time, the cornerstone of our value as lawyers revolved around our prowess in oral and written communication, profound legal acumen, and adept interpersonal abilities. We persisted (and still do)  in labor-intensive manual research, thorough document assessment, and the art of drafting – encompassing everything from composing judgments to courtroom advocacy, all achieved without the support of technological aids.

In the world now dominated by technology, which you have inherited, your worth will be assessed based on your aptitude to effectively harness and incorporate technology into your legal practice. This, in turn, will amplify efficiency, precision, and the depth of insights you can offer to your clients. Tasks that were once routine, such as research, document evaluation, and data analysis, can now be entrusted to technology. This delegation leads to expedited research processes, swifter document reviews, and the provision of more accurate insights within shorter timeframes. In this technology rich landscape, your ability to  navigate information generated by technology, make well-informed decisions, and dispense nuanced legal counsel will significantly elevate your value.

However, even as technology can augment various dimensions of legal practice, it’s essential to remember that your foundational value as lawyers remains rooted in your human judgment, profound grasp of the law, and your capacity to devise tailored solutions for the distinct legal dilemmas faced by your clients. This brings me to the third point I would like to emphasize.

Your proficiency in legal reasoning stands as the third crucial facet. The law has consistently transcended being a mere assortment of rules and case precedents, but in the present milieu, comprehending that a lawyer’s competence resides more in “legal thinking” than a mere knowledge of the law is even more vital.

Allow me to delve further. Legal thinking entails extracting the pertinent from a wealth of data, organizing it cohesively, forging logical connections among insights, and deriving abstract principles. This capacity extends to applying these principles to specific scenarios, demonstrating a nuanced understanding of the law’s practical implications. Despite Judge Oliver Wendall Holmes’ famous adage about the life of law not being logic but experience, much of  legal discourse is grounded on logic and rationality  The evolution of legal reasoning must be seamlessly translatable into both oral and written aptitude, as these skills are the conduits through which a lawyer conducts their endeavors.  It’s pivotal to acknowledge that although  Technology  enhances efficiency and productivity improvements in the legal field, it is not a replacement for the nuanced legal reasoning, critical thinking, and ethical considerations that lawyers provide.

Fourthly the need to work Smart. We have  all been guided by our teachers and parents that hard work is irreplaceable. Brilliance alone doesn’t suffice without the willingness to put in effort. Securing a promising job relies on good LLB grades, but advancement demands more than that. However the legal realm now demands a transition from depending solely on hard work to embracing smart work. Technology integration doesn’t replace hard work; it underscores the significance of working smarter by using technology to elevate efficiency, precision, and client value.

Additionally, I encourage you to embrace the concept of lifelong learning. This refers to the continuous process of acquiring knowledge, skills and insights throughout one’s life.  It emphasizes the pursuit of going beyond formal education, enabling you to remain flexible, adapting  to the complexities of modern law, upholding ethical responsibilities, and staying at the forefront of legal innovation.

Last but certainly not the least let’s remember, your attitude must always resonate with the essence of a lawyer’s duty:

The soul of a lawyer’s duty resonates with empathy and justice. It’s a pledge to walk the path of integrity, defending clients’ rights with unwavering dedication. Yet, this duty isn’t solely legal, it’s a vow to stand as custodians of fairness, guardians of truth, and pillars of a more equitable world.

As you steer your course, particularly in an era where technology threatens to replace human qualities, let this pledge be your guiding light. It transcends just understanding the law, it’s about embracing empathy and integrity, and working to forge a world where truth and justice prevail.

In closing, I extend my congratulations to the Law Students Society, the Department of Law, the Faculty of Arts and the University of Jaffna for taking this initiative to foster a culture of scholarly exploration and legal scrutiny. May Neetham become a beacon of enlightenment, leading us to a deeper comprehension of the law and its profound influence on our world. Let it’s content resonate with the truth that law is inherently for humanity and its core essence is to ensure justice for all.