Glut of law grads: ‘Problem,what problem?’

Glut of law grads: ‘Problem,what problem?’
Law Society president-elect Thio Shen Yi.

Law Society president Thio Shen Yi has weighed in on the discussion about the oversupply of law graduates, arguing that this was not a problem but a boon for those running law firms.

"I'm probably going to make myself extremely unpopular for saying this, but from the perspective of the legal profession - problem, what problem?" he wrote in the current issue of the society's Law Gazette publication.

"We are actually quite sanguine about the situation as it has become an employer's market," he added.

This was unlike the case about 10 years ago when the four largest firms could absorb the entire local cohort of lawyers, who were then only from the National University of Singapore, he said.

His remarks come at a time when there are more law graduates than training places in law firms.

Law graduates have to undergo training at these firms, among other things, before they can become lawyers.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Law had announced that the the number of British universities whose graduates are accepted for legal practice in Singapore will be reduced from 19 to 11.

The law graduate surplus had caused much "collective angst and gnashing of teeth", and this "cocktail of insecurity" was further stirred by the delisting of some British law schools, noted Mr Thio.

He accepted that the current supply of potential lawyers was greater than demand but said it did not necessarily mean that there will be a surplus of lawyers in future.

He noted the profession took in up to 500 new lawyers annually, based on the growth of law firms as well as attrition involving those who do not renew their practising certificates.

But he pointed to several factors that may alleviate the issue of oversupply, such as a lower starting pay, which could lead to higher demand from law firms.

There could also be increased demand from smaller firms, increased demand for legal services or more global players setting up shop in Singapore, among other things.

"To those running law firms, this increased supply is clearly positive and wholly welcomed," he said.

"For the law graduate, things just got tough, but you still control your own destiny."

Agreeing, Mr K. Chandra Sekaran, a lawyer and managing partner of a small legal firm, said those who are good will make it as lawyers anyway despite the greater number of law graduates.

His firm had received about 35 applications last year and 20 this year from law graduates at home and abroad for training contracts, relatively high numbers for a small firm.

Meanwhile, the Law Society is making more efforts to reach out to the public.

Its latest move is to start a Twitter account (https://twitter. com/LawSocietySG) to enhance its outreach.

"This will enable you to receive regular and timely updates on news that concerns you," the society told members.

vijayan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 02, 2015.
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