Recommendations to Legal Education and Training in Singapore
to Keep Pace with Evolving Industry Needs
A report(1) by a Working Group for the Reform of Legal Education (“the Working Group”) has put forth recommendations following a review of legal education and the training regime for lawyers in Singapore.
The review covered three main areas: (a) formal legal education (in law school) and Part A and Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations; (b) continuing legal education (after admission as an advocate and solicitor); and (c) allied legal professionals who play an integral role in supporting lawyers.
The review took into account global trends, including the continuing digitalisation of legal practices and developments in domestic and international law. To enable Singapore’s continued growth as an international legal services hub in support of international and regional business, the legal profession will be equipped to ride these trends to meet the industry’s future needs.
The recommendations of the Working Group aim to ensure that all components of formal education and training, on-the-job practice and continuing education contribute to and complement the development of lawyers to meet the evolving demands of modern legal practice and support Singapore’s vision for the legal industry.
The Working Group and the Steering Committee
The Working Group is co-chaired by Justice Audrey Lim, Judge of the High Court, and Mr Luke Goh, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Law. It comprises representatives from the Government, Singapore law schools and Temasek Polytechnic, the Law Society of Singapore (“LawSoc”), the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (“SILE”), the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”), the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (“SCCA”), and legal practitioners.
The Working Group was established under the purview of a Steering Committee comprising The Honourable the Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law Mr K Shanmugam SC, Minister for Education and Minister-in-Charge of the Public Service Mr Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law Mr Edwin Tong SC, Attorney-General Mr Lucien Wong SC, and the Senior Legal Adviser to the Minister for Foreign Affairs Professor S Jayakumar.
The Working Group conducted extensive consultation with stakeholders, including private practitioners, the Judiciary and government agencies, who identified ways to refine and enhance the current education and training regime.
Recommendations of the Working Group
The key recommendations of the Working Group are:
Recommendations relating to formal legal education and the Part A and Part B Bar Examinations, to achieve the objectives of establishing a strong foundation in core law subjects, developing functional competencies needed to begin a career in the legal profession, developing life skills and instilling awareness of the legal systems in Singapore and other major jurisdictions:
Reinforce professional ethics and conduct standards content to strengthen the core of compulsory subjects taught at law schools.
Enhance the coverage of substantive civil law concepts to enable Singapore lawyers to deal with cross-border jurisdictional matters and give Singapore’s legal industry a competitive edge.
Strengthen essential skills to bridge and meet client requirements such as by infusing technology and data literacy skills, introducing elements of fundamental accounting and financial concepts, and emphasising communication skills, contextualised for lawyers, within the mandatory law school curriculum.
Make legal internships compulsory for all students in the Singapore law schools, to expose them to the legal industry and provide them with experiential learning opportunities.
Institutionalise exposure to public sector legal work to enable aspiring lawyers to better understand the rule of law and governance in Singapore.
Recommendations relating to continuing legal education to ensure that lawyers continually deepen or broaden their expertise and hone their required fundamental and professional competencies, to maintain the profession’s high standards and competitiveness:
Introduce a legal sector competency framework that provides strategic direction on the competencies necessary for lawyers at different stages of their professional careers, which will be complemented with a training roadmap setting out the recommended courses or programmes to enable a lawyer to achieve the identified competencies.
Refresh the Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) system to focus on upskilling and achieving the identified competencies, by harmonising the CPD requirements for all categories of practising lawyers to a 16-point requirement. In recognition of the need for greater commitment of resources, this requirement will be phased in for lawyers in the middle and senior categories. The relevant agencies and providers will enhance the suite of courses available and consider online options to facilitate attendance.
Introduce specially curated milestone cohort training programmes for newly qualified lawyers to provide structured training to develop competencies most critical for their development early in their careers.
Recommendations relating to Allied Legal Professionals (“ALPs”) as professionals that complement lawyers in the legal profession:
Introduce modularised stackable certification programmes with an accreditation framework in emerging areas to enable ALPs to upskill and meet the evolving needs of lawyers and the legal industry.
Improve career progression opportunities for ALPs by giving ALPs with relevant work experience and endorsement from their employers credit exemptions towards certain curriculum components in law school to facilitate their entrance into legal practice.
Conduct a further review on whether the role of ALPs can be enhanced in the medium to long term by allowing ALPs to provide legal services in limited areas of work.
Implementation of the Recommendations
A Standing Committee will be established to guide the implementation of the recommendations going forward. The Working Group also calls for a co-ordinated effort from all stakeholders in the industry to support the various initiatives recommended.
The Standing Committee will comprise representatives from the Singapore law schools, Temasek Polytechnic, SILE, LawSoc, SAL, SCCA, the Judiciary, industry representatives and relevant government agencies. This, together with the continued guidance of the Steering Committee from a strategic planning perspective, will ensure a continued feedback loop between the evolving needs of law firms and businesses, and the legal education and training curricula.