SINGAPORE: A new accreditation scheme launched on Monday (Jan 9) will make it easier for members of the public to identify specialist lawyers in Singapore.
The Specialist Accreditation Scheme - introduced by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) - which accredits lawyers who have proven themselves in their area of practice, was announced by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon at the opening of the Legal Year on Monday.
CJ Menon said that in the long run, the specialist accreditation scheme will improve the quality of Singapore's legal services and the standard of the Bar in general.
"Accreditation will function as a mark of recognition that a particular lawyer in fact has certain specific skills, expertise and experience. This will both encourage aspiring specialists to deepen their skills and also provide users with a degree of quality assurance," he said.
For a start, the scheme will target lawyers who specialise in building and construction law. SAL said the sector has been identified as a key area in the coming years, given high-profile projects such as the upcoming Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High-Speed Rail. There are about 900 lawyers practising building and construction law in Singapore who could benefit from the scheme, SAL said.
Lawyer Christopher Chuah, partner and head of the Infrastructure, Construction and Engineering Practice at WongPartnership LLP, said legal practitioners play a key role in the construction industry, from front-end drafting and advice to dispute resolution.
“The expected upswing in local, regional and global construction activity in the next four to five years bodes well for building and construction practitioners,” Mr Chuah said. “There is a group of counsel and legal advisors at the apex of this area of work internationally and Singapore should likewise aim to have highly-skilled legal practitioners at this level,” he said.
The accreditation scheme has two tiers - Accredited Specialist for younger legal practitioners and Senior Accredited Specialist for more experienced lawyers - and it is not compulsory.
Lawyers who wish to apply must have at least five years' experience and be selected by a panel of judges. They must also meet criteria such as having substantial involvement in building and construction law practice, as well as references from fellow lawyers.
The interviews and selection process are slated to take place between March and September and the first batch of specialist lawyers is expected to be unveiled by January 2018.
Registration for the scheme opened on Monday.
Other areas of law that could be considered in the scheme in future include technology and shipping law, SAL said.