ITE grad to
For most of his childhood and teenage
years, Mr Kawal Pal Singh felt inferior
among his peers as they fared better
He was streamed into now-abol-
ished subject-based banding EM3 for
weaker pupils in Bedok View Primary
School and Normal (Technical) in
Temasek Secondary school.
He harboured a childhood dream to
be a lawyer but he didn’t think he
could fulfil it because he felt he wasn’t
“My classmates and I were
streamed in different classes, given
different work and activities to do
from the students who were in the
Express and Normal (Academic)
stream. All that made me feel like I
was not good enough. That perception
was locked in my mind and it felt
lousy,” said Mr Singh, who is now 36.
After his N levels, he enrolled at
the Institute Technical of Education
(ITE) Ang Mo Kio, now part of ITE
College Central, but he faced a
dilemma – he did not know which
field to pursue.
“I took a computer technology
course because everyone around me
mentioned that it would be the best
course to take up,” he said. “At that
time, I had no intentions of joining my
family business but also I had no clue
what I was going to do.”
His uncle, former Member of Parlia-
ment Inderjit Singh, runs an electronic
goods trading business, Tri Star Elec-
tronics, with his brothers.
After Mr Singh graduated from ITE
and completed National Service, he
ended up joining his family business in
2004. He started as a data entry clerk
and subsequently took on other roles
in accounts and sales.
“I broke away from having an
inferior mindset when I started my
role as an electronics trader,” he re-
called. “It gave me opportunities to
travel the world and manage high-net
The job took him to different parts
of Africa and he even brought in an
impressive US$23 million in annual
sales as a sales executive during his
time at the company. Part of it in-
volved him fulfilling responsibilities
beyond his job scope.
“I stayed in Africa for a month or
two, observed how my clients, the
wholesalers, ran their business and
realised they were not running it
efficiently. So I came up with a tutorial
for them on better ways to run their
business,” said Mr Singh.
He managed to help his clients
improve their business and taught
them how to market their companies.
“There were improvements with
some clients and it translated into
more sales for us. This contributed to
the sales targets I hit for the com-
pany,” said Mr Singh, recalling it as his
proudest accomplishment at Tri Star
“I sat back and I realised that I was
travelling halfway across the world and
dealing with African businessmen who
are known to be very difficult to deal
with and I’m getting million dollar
sales from what I do. It unlocked the
mindset I had that I was inferior and
that I couldn’t accomplish things.”
Mr Singh’s battered confidence was
restored and he became optimistic
about his future.
He had an epiphany that maybe it
was time to fulfil his childhood dream
of being a lawyer.
Growing up, he used to watch
dramas on law and order such as Ally
McBeal and Boston Legal. He also
read about various legal cases in the
“It was fun to read the facts of
various cases in the newspapers and I
used to read about local lawyers – I
found it very interesting,” he said.
He also identified with top litigator
Davinder Singh in the newspapers.
“When I saw him in the papers, I
naturally wanted to read about it,
being a Sikh.”
Mr Singh had been married for a
year when he seriously considered
pursuing law. Though he wanted to try
to fulfil his dream of being a lawyer,
he did not want to set too high a
target for himself considering his bleak
acdemic history .
“When I told my wife I wanted to
study law and see where it takes me,
she immediately told me to go for it.
When she gave me her support, it
made it all the more clear that I should
go ahead with it.”
He took a leap of faith by taking
night classes in legal studies at a
private school here while juggling his
job at Tri Star Electronics.
When he passed his internal exami-
nations, he saw it as a sign to pursue
He left Tri Star Electronics after
seven years to study law at the Univer-
sity of Southampton in UK while his
wife, who is a senior research officer at
Singapore Immunology Network, a
subsidiary of A*Star, stayed in Singa-
“We needed one of us to have an
income coming in so we had to make
a sacrifice. It was difficult being away
from each other but it was a sacrifice
we knew we wanted to make,” he
The couple used to have Skype
dates regularly. Mr Singh would return
to Singapore during term breaks and
when he was busy with his thesis, she
flew to the UK.
In his second year of law school,
she got pregnant. He had made plans
to rush home for his first born’s
delivery, but his daughter came a week
early, in the middle of his examina-
He was studying in the library when
his mother called him and said ‘congr-
atulations, you’re a father now’.
Though law school was tough,
Mr Singh pushed through with “a
“I was ready to take on any chal-
lenge that the academics would give
He also found himself playing “big
brother” to his peers. As an older
student in his cohort, he would help
his classmates academically and also
when they were homesick.
“I had discussions on law with top
Junior College (JC) students. And I
was thinking ‘wow, I’m just an ITE
grad giving opinions to top JC grads
who are taking what I say and putting
it in their papers’. It boosted my
After he graduated, he returned to
Singapore in 2014 and passed the
Singapore Bar exams on the first try
while completing his training at a local
law firm. He then joined Tito Isaac &
Co LLP in 2016 as an associate and
has been there since.
On his first morning of work at Tito
Isaac & Co LLP, he was asked to go to
court to fight for a cost that the
winning party of a case would receive.
“It was a bit daunting at first. I
quickly flipped through my notes,
looked through the rules and formu-
lated my thoughts while walking to
court. In fact, I knew that I was going
to be before a judge who is known to
be very stern,” said Mr Singh.
He felt “very comfortable” in court
though it was his first day. He won the
application for the cost.
Mr Singh was made a partner of his
law firm Tito Isaac & Co LLP in July.
The litigation lawyer has been with the
firm three years – a short duration for
such a promotion in the industry.
“I built trust in my company, and
on the first day of practice I was
already in court. (My boss) Tito Isaac
realised that I could manage my own
cases and he saw that I was bringing in
my own clients so he made me a
senior associate. That motivated me to
build his firm as if it’s my own and I
think the management recognised
that,” said Mr Singh on what he
thought contributed to his promotion
to partner at the firm.
Today, Dispute Resolution is his
“What excites me about my job is
that I’m being given the power and the
mandate to put forward my position,
debate with my learned friend on the
other side and let the judge decide.
“I think that’s a very good way to
decide disputes and I like the whole
idea of debating especially on a topic
that interests me.”
Mr Singh is glad he broke out of
the cycle of feeling inadequate and is
now living his dream.
His advice to students who aren’t
shining as brightly in academics?
“Nobody has the right to tell you
that ‘you will never make it’,” he said.
“Be fearless, be curious. Speak to
your family, tell them your ambitions
and hopes. Your family members are
your first supporters, share with them
your thoughts and let them help you
plant the seeds of success.”
“Nobody has the
right to tell you that
‘you will never make
it’. Be fearless, be
curious. Speak to
your family, tell
them your ambitions
– Lawyer Kawal Pal Singh