UniSIM Law School to open with 60 places

Singapore's much-awaited third law school at SIM University, specialising in family and criminal law, will open in January next year.

Applications for the 60 places in the course will open next month - 80 per cent of which will go to mature students.

The rest of the places will go to A-level school leavers and polytechnic diploma-holders.

The classes will be conducted in the evening.

Those who already hold a first degree will take up the Juris Doctor course while fresh school leavers will be offered the Bachelor of Laws.

Juris Doctor students are expected to take three to six years to complete the degree while LL.B. students take four to six years.

Tuition fee is yet to be finalised but is not expected to differ too much from the other two law schools which charge $12,400 a year.

The Ministry of Law, which announced the details yesterday, said UniSIM is also exploring the idea of setting up a campus at the State or Family Justice courts in Havelock Road.

Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah, who headed a 12-member panel to provide strategic direction for the school, said UniSIM Law School, as it will be called, will address the upcoming shortage of lawyers in the fields of criminal and family law.

She noted that fresh graduates generally choose not to enter these fields and among those who do, attrition rates are high because of the long hours and emotional demands.

She also noted that the shortage will become more acute as senior practitioners retire.

Currently, there are about 1,600 lawyers practising in these two fields - though many do not do so exclusively.

Close to 170 are over the age of 65, noted Ms Indranee, adding that an average of 30 lawyers will be retiring yearly over the next decade.

She said: "So there is a hollowing-out effect. If we don't do something, then in the longer term, we are going to have a problem as there is a real need for practising criminal and family lawyers."

She said the panel had recommended co-locating the law school at the State Courts or Family Justice Courts to support the emphasis on practice.

"If you want to be a practitioner, you have to be in the thick of things," she said, adding that it also makes it convenient for the adjunct faculty who will be practising lawyers.

UniSIM president Cheong Hee Kiat said the new law school hopes to draw mature individuals with experience in related fields, such as social work and law enforcement, who want to make a switch to a second career in law. Hence, students will be selected not just based on academic ability but also aptitude, attitude and interest in the practice of family and criminal law.

Besides looking at students' grades at the A levels or polytechnic diploma, selection will be based on test scores on standardised law aptitude tests or scores on basic family and criminal law courses offered by the school.

Students will undergo a six-month practicum at the end of their course, where they will get hands-on exposure.

Senior Counsel Leslie Chew, who has been appointed dean of the school, said the training and exposure to cross-disciplinary areas like social work and forensic science will prepare students well for family and criminal legal work.

Mr Chew, who has been a lawyer for 27 years, has also served as Deputy Public Prosecutor, State Counsel and Senior District Judge in the State Courts.


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