Sunday, April 22, 2007

Reader's Question: Studying Law

QUESTION

I've been wanting to study law in a private institution, right here in Singapore. This is because I do not have a full A-level certificate.

I've been told that I have to do the diploma in law programme first, before proceeding to year 2 of the LLB programme.

Is this true? If so, upon successfully completing the degree, what are the possible paths for me to take?

Or should I just go over to Great Britain (England & Wales) and do the law programme there; be called to the Bar in Singapore and then practise?

ANSWER

Before doing anything, you must first reflect about pursuing a law course.

Why law and not any other subject? How strong are your reasons for wishing to do law? Are you willing to stick your neck out, and have your views tested or criticized?

Like the profession itself, law is a very demanding course. Do you think you have the discipline that you will need to put in the hard work that is expected and required of you?

Based on your question, I will assume you wish to enter legal practice in Singapore and have the necessary passion and will to do so.

TWINNING PROGRAMMES NOT RECOGNISED

Unfortunately, the ‘twinning’ route that you are considering will NOT enable you to practise in Singapore.

It is a requirement of the Legal Profession Act in Singapore that you must complete all the years of your English law degree on a full-time basis in Great Britain.

Plus, your university must be one of those recognised under the Legal Profession Act.

ADMISSION TO LAW SCHOOL

You need very good academic credentials to get into a law school in Singapore or Great Britain.

If you do not have a full A-Level certificate - that is you performed below average - it’s going to be very difficult.

SINGAPORE LAW SCHOOLS

It’s more competitive in Singapore since over a thousand individuals apply for about 300 places every year. But if you get into a Singapore law school, it’s easier for you to practise in Singapore.

However, I understand Singapore law schools prefer to take in students with very good A-Level grades.

BRITISH LAW SCHOOLS

My personal experience is that British law schools tend to be more open towards mature applicants (those above 23 years old) and applicants who may have done other pre-university programmes such as diplomas or foundation studies.

If you are going to England, you will need to set aside a budget of about S$180,000. This budget should be adequate to cover not just the law degree (at a university outside London) but also the professional courses that you need to do to qualify as a lawyer.

A British graduate needs an upper second class honours degree to practise in Singapore, whereas a local graduate needs only a lower second class honours degree.

If you get a lower second class honours degree in England, you must get relevant work experience and pass an interview with the Board of Legal Education in Singapore.

After you graduate in England or are approved by the Board of Legal Education, you will need to come back to Singapore and do a mandatory postgraduate diploma at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Law for 1 year.

Then, for another year, you need to complete the Practice Law Course and do pupillage. This last year is normally funded by a law firm in Singapore.

WAY FORWARD

You can consider completing the Diploma in Law but ensure it’s from a credible institution. You will also need to do very well in the diploma in order to get into one of the British law schools recognised under Singapore legislation.

Alternatively, universities have foundation programmes that you can undertake or you can re-do your A-Level examinations.

Personally, if you can afford it, I will encourage you to consider studying law at my alma mater, University of Leicester.

The University of Leicester also has an undergraduate foundation programme, which may give you an advantage in helping you to qualify for the law degree either in Leicester or elsewhere.

Another place for foundation studies you may wish to consider is St. Andrew's, Cambridge.

Feel free to write to me if you need help getting in touch with these institutions of learning.

CAUTIONARY ADVICE

Finally, be careful about what others share with you, including what you have just read above!

As any good lawyer would, one needs to verify the sources of information.

Visit the British Council. Consult the Board of Legal Education. Go back to your junior college and speak to your education counsellors.

All these persons are usually good resources to verify such information. They are also in a better position to look at your specific circumstances and advise you about what to do.

Happiness,
Dharmendra Yadav

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