Third law school to better equip 'socially conscious' lawyers

The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) School of Law, the third law school here, which commenced classes in January, has a specific focus in areas of family and criminal law.

This comes after the fourth Committee on the Supply of Lawyers recommended that a third law school be set up, as there is a shortage of family and criminal law practitioners.

The school has two undergraduate programmes - bachelor of laws and juris doctor. It also has a graduate programme in master of taxation.

Professor Leslie Chew, senior counsel and dean of the School of Law, told The New Paper that family and criminal lawyers play a significant role for people in crisis.

"Family lawyers are likely to be dealing with the break-up of marriages and the tussle over the custody of children," he said.

"A well-trained and socially conscious lawyer, equipped with the appropriate skills, is more likely to have a positive impact on families in crisis."

He added that with a well-trained and socially conscious criminal lawyer, accused persons are also more likely to be adequately represented to avoid a miscarriage of justice.

The school aims to provide close to real-life practice in terms of teaching methods and subjects.

He said: "To prepare and equip future family lawyers, we are making it compulsory for our students to take the course on social services in Singapore run by our School of Human Development and Social Service.

"Similarly, to better equip our students for practice in criminal law, we are providing a course in forensic science."

Prof Chew said the selection process is targeted at those who have worked in related fields. Eighty per cent of the first cohort have worked an average of 11 years.

"Our students bring their life experiences into the classroom. Many are police officers and social work professionals as well as teachers.

"Their own life experiences bring a multi-disciplinary approach to our students' learning, which can help them understand better the dynamics of how law works in real life."

Prof Chew added that a mid-career person who switches to law would have a natural advantage.

He said: "Law is a discipline which requires maturity. It takes some understanding of life before one can appreciate the deep and nuanced layers of law."

This article was first published on March 22, 2017.
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