Speech by Law Minister K Shanmugam on the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2009
18 Aug 2009 Posted in Parliamentary speeches and responses
Mr Speaker, Sir, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
Sir, this Bill introduces amendments to the Legal Profession Act to implement changes relating to legal education and legal profession training which were announced by the Ministry of Law earlier this year.
These amendments to the Legal Profession Act concern two key changes. First, the introduction of a training contract system to replace the current pupillage system; and second, the streamlining of existing overlapping exemption powers currently exercised by the Board of Legal Education and the Minister for Law, in preparation for the establishment of the proposed Institute of Legal Education next year.
Let me elaborate on the rationale for the two key changes:
Training Contract System
- The current pupillage system will be changed into a Training Contract system. The rationale for this is to get the law practices to be responsible to provide some structured training to pupils, rather than individual pupil-masters. In place of six months of pupillage, all graduates will be required to complete a six-month “practice training” which should take the form of a Training Contract with a Singapore law practice after completing Part B of the new Bar Examinations. Clauses 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 of the Bill make the necessary amendments to take into account the new Training Contract requirements.
- To give law practices time to adjust to the changes, the Training Contract system will be phased in incrementally in consultation with key stakeholders such as the Board of Legal Education, the Law Society and practitioners. Details of the new requirements relating to the Training Contracts will be set out in subsidiary legislation to be enacted after the Bill enters into force.
Streamlining of Exemption Functions
- Next year, we will set up the Institute of Legal Education or ILE, which will come under the governance of the Singapore Academy of Law and serve as an umbrella institution to co-ordinate, administer and have oversight of the various initiatives relating to legal education. In addition to broader functions such as overseeing Continuing Legal Education for lawyers, the ILE will also assume functions and powers currently held by the Board of Legal Education. A separate Bill will be tabled next year to implement that.
- In preparation for the ILE to focus on the content of legal education, the present multiple exemption functions exercised by both the Board of Legal Education and the Minister for Law concerning the various admission requirements will be streamlined into a single exemption power exercised by the Minister for Law. The relevant amendments are set out in Clauses 5 and 9 of the Bill.
- This streamlining of exemption functions will simplify the exemption application process for those seeking to be admitted to the Singapore Bar. The amendments in the Bill together with amendments to the Legal Profession (Qualified Persons) Rules which are made in tandem with this move to streamline the process, will significantly simplify applications for exemption and waivers from the requirements for admission to the Bar.
- The streamlining will therefore make it procedurally easier for lawyers to return to practise in Singapore. In particular, the following categories of lawyers will find it easier to come back:
- Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who satisfy our Qualified Persons criteria, who are qualified in a common law jurisdiction and have at least two years’ experience as legal practitioners. They will be required to pass only Part A of the Bar Examination; and
- Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who have significant experience as foreign lawyers or who are partners of foreign law practices. They may not need to sit for the Bar Examination.
Admission of such individuals will of course depend on the strength of the application and granted subject to such conditions and requirements as may be appropriate to maintain the quality of entrants to the Singapore legal profession.
Other Miscellaneous Amendments
- Let me now briefly touch on the other miscellaneous amendments. Clauses 13, 14 and 15 of the Bill also contain various consequential amendments arising from the changes, and amendments of a technical or law revision nature.
- Sir, these changes together with other changes that are being implemented, will put in place a holistic framework for the admission of lawyers to the Singapore Bar and their professional education. The object is to ensure that Singapore continues to attract high calibre legal talent and to grow as a regional hub for legal services and legal education.
- Sir, I beg to move.
Last updated on 18 Nov 2012