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Government Welcomes Key Recommendations of the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers

Posted in Press releases

Background


1.     A strong legal sector is both an enabler for the economy, as well as an economic engine in its own right. Over the past five years, the value added to the economy from legal services has grown by about 25 per cent from S$1.5 billion in 2008 to an estimated S$1.9 billion in 2012.  


2.     In March 2012, the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers was convened by the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) as part of our periodic reviews to ensure that the supply of lawyers keeps pace with the demand [1] that accompanies the sector’s growth. The Committee, chaired by Justice V K Rajah, submitted its report to the Government on 22 May 2013.


Key Recommendations by the 4th Committee


3.     The Committee examined the factors affecting the supply of and demand for lawyers in Singapore, taking into account the needs of the legal sector, local and overseas sources of supply of law graduates, and attrition.


4.     Its three main observations were:


        a.   The demand for lawyers practising cross-border and local commercial / corporate work can, with a slight calibrated         increase, be met through the supply of lawyers from our local law schools as well as Singaporeans and PRs who are           law graduates from Overseas Scheduled Universities (OSUs) [2].


        b.   There is at present a shortage of lawyers who practise community law [3]. If no measures are taken to address this,         the shortage will be exacerbated.


        c.   The attrition rate of legal professionals should be reduced, especially for lawyers in private practice. The attrition               rate was highest between the second and fifth year of practice.


5.     Based on these, the Committee made six key recommendations.


Calibrated Increase in Local Supply


        a.   Increase the annual LLB student intake of the Singapore Management University (SMU) from 120 to 180 students             over three years;


        b.   Establish a third law school with a focus on training prospective lawyers keen to practise community law. The                   school should also provide a conversion course that involves vocational training and/or specialised modules for                     persons with external law degrees or law degrees from non-OSUs to qualify for admission to the Singapore Bar [4];


Overseas Law Graduates


        c.   Review and refresh the list of OSUs every five years to ensure continued quality of overseas-trained entrants to the           Singapore Bar. The review could be conducted by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE);


        d.   Recognise double-degree programmes offered by OSUs subject to their meeting specific criteria; and


        e.   Retain existing policies relating to the minimum degree classification (of at least a lower second class honours)             and the non-recognition of external law degrees.


Strategies to address the Attrition of Legal Professionals


        f.    Consider implementing measures in the two existing law schools and law firms to:


              i.    Involve legal practitioners in the admissions and teaching process to present law students with the realities of                         legal practice;


              ii.    Introduce programmes to help law students better prepare for legal practice;


              iii.   Firms to improve work-life balance by encouraging more flexible work practices;


              iv.   Firms to provide legal professionals with better support to cope with work and personal pressures; and


              v.   Explore innovations which could offer alternatives for practitioners who do not find the existing structures of                              conventional legal practice conducive.


6.     The 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers’ report can be downloaded here.


Government’s Response to the 4th  Committee’s Recommendations


7.     The Government welcomes the 4th Committee’s recommendations.


        a.   The Government has agreed for SMU Law School to increase its 2013 LLB intake from 120 to 150 students as an           initial step.


        b.   MinLaw, in consultation with the Ministry of Education, will study the proposal for a third law school, with the focus             on training prospective lawyers keen on practising community law.


        c.   The Government has also agreed with the Committee’s recommendations relating to a regular review of the list of           OSUs by SILE; recognition of double-degree programmes offered by OSUs; as well as the retention of existing policies         relating to the minimum degree classification, and non-recognition of external law degrees.


        d.   The Government will refer the Committee’s recommended strategies to reduce attrition in the profession to the                 Singapore Academy of Law, the Law Society and the local law schools for consideration.


Conclusion


8.     The Government will ensure that the supply of high-quality legal talent in Singapore continues to keep pace with demand, in order to adequately serve the needs of the community and also ensure that the legal sector is able to capitalise on opportunities arising from the economic growth of the region.


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[1] The 1st Committee completed its review in April 1993. The 2nd Committee completed its review in January 2001 and the 3rd Committee completed its review in July 2006.


[2] Overseas universities whose law degrees are listed in the schedule of the Legal Profession (Qualified Persons) Rules and recognised for the purposes of admission to the Singapore Bar.


[3] This refers to lawyers who service the needs of the community by practising criminal and family law.


[4] Law graduates from the third law school will undergo the same admission process to the Singapore Bar and will be subject to the same requirements as law graduates from NUS and SMU. This means they will have to possess a degree of at least second-lower Honours, complete the Part B course, pass the Part B Bar Examination, serve the applicable practice training period and any other applicable requirements.


ANNEX A: Composition of the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers

ANNEX B: Routes for Admission to the Singapore Bar





Last updated on 28 May 2013