(Delivered in Parliament on 6 April 2016)
External Law Degree Holders – Dennis Tan
The Fourth Committee on the Supply of Lawyers had in 2013 recommended that the third law school at UniSIM offer a conversion course for external law degree holders or holders of law degrees who are not on the list of approved overseas universities. I understand that UniSIM will now not offer such a course.
I understand that these graduates may have to take the JD course instead. However, the JD course may take a much longer time. Past graduates of similar external law degrees who qualified to practise as Singapore lawyers can probably testify that they did not need such a lengthy course to make them worthy practitioners. Many are doing well.
Moreover, some external law degree holders who have yet been allowed to qualify as lawyers in Singapore, are doing well as legal counsel or even practising successfully under a different jurisdiction.
I would like to know what is MinLaw’s position on this issue.
I would also like to ask the Minister to update the House on the government’s present position on the prospects of these graduates qualifying as advocates and solicitors?
New Law School and Employment Issue – Dennis Tan
As we know, in the past few years there has been an oversupply of law graduates and a shortage of trainee positions. Recently it was announced that a third law school, UniSIM law school, is being set up and will focus on community law. I would like to ask the Minister what is MinLaw’s position on the likely implication of the additional number of graduates on the employment market arising from the new law school.
I would also like to ask the Minister whether MinLaw expects that the graduates of UniSIM law school will only practise community law and that they are discouraged from pursuing other areas of law after they graduate. The reason why I am asking this is that as a practising lawyer myself, I find that many law graduates only choose their area of work after they start training or with their first job after they qualify as lawyers. In fact, many switch areas of work after training or their initial job.
My next question is: what if, say, a large number of the students at UniSIM decide in the course of studying community law subjects or having done attachments at law firms that community law (be it family, probate or criminal law) is not their cup of tea? Is it realistic to expect people to stay in the field at this early stage of their legal education?
Finally, notwithstanding that UniSIM law school will focus on community law, I would also like to seek the Minister’s assurance that better efforts can be made to persuade more students of NUS and SMU to pursue community law in their career options. How the law schools communicate their expectations of their graduates may have a positive influence on their views to different areas of practice.