Senior lawyers can now take on more trainees

Senior lawyers can now take on more trainees

Aspiring lawyers here can look forward to a higher likelihood of securing a practice training contract - a six-month requirement they need to undertake before being called to the Bar in Singapore. Lawyers with 12 years' experience can now supervise four practice trainees at any time. Previously, two was the maximum number of trainees a lawyer could have.

The change to the Legal Profession (Admission) Rules on Monday was made by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education - a statutory body responsible for maintaining and improving the standard of legal education here.

The institute, when contacted, said the change was made in response to feedback from supervising solicitors who would like to take on more than two practice trainees.

The Law Society of Singapore said it was consulted on the proposal and supported it. "The society is of the view that it may ease the current shortage of training contracts," a spokesman said. This year, nearly 650 graduates competed for about 490 practice training contracts.

The crunch was felt as more young people go overseas to study law. The number of Singaporean law students in Britain, for instance, more than tripled from 350 in 2008 to 1,142 last year. The number going to Australia has also risen from 303 in 2011 to 386 last year.

The number of local law graduates is about 400 each year.

Peter Low law firm director Choo Zheng Xi said the firm has seen applications almost double in the past two years. This year, about 30 graduates applied for two training contracts at the firm. "Inevitably, we have to turn away very qualified applicants, so this (change) will allow us to get more candidates," he said.

Ms Christy Lim, head of lawyer development at WongPartnership, said: "The move is beneficial, as it allows senior lawyers to share their wealth of experience with a wider pool of trainees."

Not everyone agrees that having more trainees is preferable, however. Providence Law Asia managing director Abraham Vergis will not be taking on more.

"If one is to effectively supervise trainees, it would be better to limit the number of trainees... so that you can spend more time with them," he said.

But he added that senior lawyers who have a large team of experienced lawyers working under them can now have more trainees benefit from "the collective experience of the team of lawyers"

This article was first published on December 20, 2014.
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