New law school to groom family, criminal lawyers

Graduates of Singapore's third law school are expected to practise family and criminal law, said Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah yesterday.

Although the courses at SIM University's law school will equip graduates for general practice, the admission and course curriculum are designed to encourage them to be family or criminal lawyers.

These are two areas that will soon see a shortage if nothing is done, she said.

The law school is expected to take in older students seeking a mid-career change, and they "would be better placed to decide at the outset if they want to practise in these areas", she said.

Earlier, it had said it hoped to draw older students with experience in such fields as social work and law enforcement.

Ms Indranee was replying to Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, who asked if the students were discouraged from pursuing other areas of law.

Mr Tan, a shipping lawyer, noted that law graduates often choose an area of specialisation only after they start work.

He also asked if the law school, which will start classes in January next year, will worsen the current oversupply of lawyers.

Ms Indranee said the glut does not address the demand for family and criminal lawyers.

Fresh graduates from the two other law schools - at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Management University - and those who received their degrees abroad, are generally not keen to practise in the two areas, she said. Those who do so tend to drop out, owing to the emotional demands of the job.

As the new law school will start with 60 students and slowly expand to 75 students, it will not have a significant impact on supply.

Ms Indranee also reiterated the Government's position on law degrees offered by universities that are not on Singapore's list of approved overseas institutions.

It had been anticipated that the new law school would offer a conversion programme to let such graduates practise as lawyers here.

But the conversion course will not be offered, said Ms Indranee.

The practice of Singapore law "affects the lives of people, society and economy", and must be held to high standards, she said.

This article was first published on April 7, 2016.
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