LETTER SENT TO THE PROFESSIONAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, SINGAPORE ACADEMY OF LAW, AND COMMITTEE TO DEVELOP THE SINGAPORE LEGAL SECTOR ON 14 MAY 2007
I write this in my personal capacity and my views below are based both on my personal experience and on anecdotal accounts that others have shared with me.
1. Reduce legal work experience requirement from three years to one year
Last year, the Legal Profession Act was amended to enable law graduates with lower second class honours degrees from approved British universities and three years of relevant work experience to go on to qualify as lawyers in Singapore.
Among the reasons why the 3-year requirement was put in place was that a flood of applications were expected from such graduates, and that it was also felt the 3 years would be an adequate period to suss out the motivation and ability of one aspiring to be a lawyer.
There have been at least two rounds of applications since the legislation was amended.
Unfortunately, contrary to expectations, the process has only attracted a limited pool of applicants (myself included).
Having been subject to the process and having attempted to encourage others to do the same, I find the need for three years of relevant work experience to be a very onerous requirement.
Most such graduates are well settled in their careers either in Singapore or overseas. Some have also left the legal sector for other areas of industry after gaining 1-2 years of work experience, when they realise that qualifying as a lawyer is too much of a sacrifice, especially since, in some cases, this comes at the expense of setting up families with one's partner.
I have also learnt that some law firms employ and take advantage of law graduates in such situations. These graduates are given work quite similar to what newly qualified lawyers would receive but are not paid salaries that are commensurate with the work they do.
I would like to suggest that the requirement of three years can be brought down to 1 year, since I believe this is an adequate period to make an assessment of the will and ability of a person, who may not have an upper second class honours degree, to do legal work.
I am also aware that the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association has in the past recommended that the requirement should be 2 years.
2. Expand list of recognised law schools
I would also like to suggest that the list of approved British law schools be expanded, and perhaps the position on external law degrees be revisited. I know of law graduates who do legal work in some of our law firms or in-house that have good experience and do good legal work but cannot qualify, simply because they did not read law at a recognised law school. This is really unfortunate.
Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.
Please consider the environment - do you really need to print this?