- POSTED: 03 Jan 2014 19:26
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The Law Society aims to find out the reasons why three out of four local lawyers leave the profession within the first 10 years of practice.
SINGAPORE: Three out of every four local lawyers opt to leave the profession within the first 10 years of practice.
This was revealed by the president of the Law Society, Lok Vi Ming, at the opening of the Legal Year 2014 on Friday.
The Law Society said it aims to find out the reasons why these lawyers are leaving the profession.
It also said it is working to raise awareness among more lawyers about pro bono work, and how they can help in this area.
There are now 4,549 local lawyers practising in Singapore, after the number of lawyers in the country exceeded the 4,000-mark for the first time in 2012.
But there is a strikingly low number of practitioners in the middle category -- those with between seven and 12 years of post-qualification experience.
There are 386 lawyers in the middle category as at October 2013, which represents about 25 per cent of the total number of graduating lawyers within the five-year period.
Mr Lok said: "It is of course entirely possible that young lawyers may have left the practice to try their hand at other jobs -- for instance in-house, or working with the courts, or working at MinLaw or with the AGC (Attorney-General's Chambers).
“So we need to find out why they left, and what is it that is attractive about other industries or unattractive about legal practice or private practice in the legal profession that makes them leave and not come back to us."
A surprise to many in the law fraternity was the fact that no Senior Counsel was appointed this year.
Channel NewsAsia understands that this is the first time in 17 years this has happened, since the first batch was appointed in 1997.
Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice of Singapore, said: "This year, the committee found that while a number of candidates were meritorious in several respects, none as yet sufficiently met these criteria to warrant appointment."
One of the considerations to be appointed Senior Counsel is the track record of pro bono engagements.
And to help sustain pro bono programmes financially, the Law Society said a committee will be set up to consider and plan for a fund-raising activity.
This will involve all lawyers -- local and foreign -- as well as in-house counsel and other stakeholders in the legal profession and industry.
The aim is to ensure that all Singaporeans, including those with lower incomes, have access to legal services, particularly in areas such as criminal law, family law, and basic civil claims and disputes.
The Committee to Study Community Legal Services Initiatives -- an inter-agency committee with representatives from the Judiciary, the Ministry of Law, the Academy and the practising profession -- has recommended the reporting of hours expended by all lawyers on pro bono work.
Mr Menon said: "The data, which will be collected over a period of between three and five years, will enable us to better understand the pro bono landscape, our society's needs, and how far those needs are being met by the profession.
“The legislative amendments required to mandate such reporting will likely be introduced this year, with a view to their implementation, if passed, in 2015."
It was also announced that the AGC will provide legal representation services to the whole of the public sector, including statutory boards.
The AGC previously only handled government-related affairs, such as cases involving ministries.
It will start with taking onboard judicial review cases made against statutory boards, and civil penalty cases enforced by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Thus, the AGC will expand its manpower and enhance its training efforts to equip officers to better manage and handle these challenging areas of law.