Friday, 29 August 2014

Panel did not highlight shortage of lawyers: Ministry of Law

THE 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers, in its 2013 review, did not find a shortage in the overall number of lawyers ("Not easy to get law grads to enter other fields" by Miss Annia Hsu; Sunday).

Instead, it highlighted a mismatch between supply and demand; specifically, a shortage of family and criminal practitioners. The third law school was recommended as a targeted way to address this.

Many Singaporeans want to pursue a law degree. The third law school can help meet some of this demand, albeit in a very modest way, as it will enrol about 50 to 70 students per year, as otherwise the aspiring students will go overseas anyway. But the third law school will seek to get its students to specialise in areas such as family law and criminal law.

Miss Hsu suggested that the possible glut of lawyers can be dealt with by controlling the number of foreign lawyers. That is not correct. Foreign lawyers can practise only the law of the foreign jurisdiction they are qualified from; they cannot practise Singapore law.

Such foreign lawyers, practising foreign law, contribute to Singapore's role as a leading financial and business centre internationally, and the jobs that are created in those sectors.

The central issue is that within the last three years, the number of Singaporeans enrolling in overseas law schools has more than doubled to 1,500. This represents 30 per cent of the entire profession in Singapore.

The Ministry of Law has highlighted these figures so that students have a better understanding of the market to help them decide whether or not they wish to pursue a law degree.

Praveen Randhawa (Ms)
Press Secretary to Minister, Ministry of Law
ST Forum, 28 Aug 2014

Not easy to get law grads to enter other fields

Law Minister K. Shanmugam's call for law students to "temper career and salary expectations and maybe even consider other jobs" ("S'pore facing a glut of lawyers"; last Sunday) seems to contradict the recommendations by the fourth Committee on the Supply of Lawyers last year ("Singapore to set up third law school"; May 29, 2013).

With the establishment of a law faculty in Singapore Management University in 2007 and recommendations by the committee to open a third law school, one gets the impression that there is a persistent shortage of lawyers in the market.

It is even more difficult to change expectations of law students after they enter the legal education system - that with legal education, they do not have alternatives to working in the legal industry. While the skills learnt in law school are useful in other industries, the reality is that law graduates are better paid for the same type of skill in the legal industry than in other fields.

For students who have paid higher school fees and received such specialised training for four years, combined with the lack of knowledge and understanding of other industries, most would not consider entering other fields.

Moreover, tempering salary expectations is difficult for people who understand the industry.

The supply of lawyers is easily controlled by the Law Ministry, which can cap the number of foreign law firms and foreign lawyers entering the local market. Another control mechanism is the Bar examinations, which can be made more difficult for candidates to pass.

The legal industry is facing high attrition of senior associates and junior lawyers. So law firms turn to fresh graduates to replace these lawyers. If law graduates were to enter other industries from the beginning, the legal industry is going to face an even worse shortage of lawyers.

Annia Hsu (Miss)
ST Forum, 24 Aug 2014

No comments:

Post a Comment