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Family lawyers should have right aptitude and attitude

Mr Chia Boon Teck (Divorce lawyers not out to encourage litigation; Dec 24) and Ms Michelle Woodworth of the Law Society of Singapore(Lawyers play significant role in family justice system; Dec 24) have missed a key point in the move to set up a government committee to improve family justice system.

Although lawyers are generally needed to assist lay persons to go through a divorce or other family-related proceedings owing to the complexities of the procedures and processes, it is important that family lawyers have the right aptitude and adopt the right attitude.

Hence, the need for a specialist family law and multidisciplinary training, as well as accreditation under a new Family Law Practitioner scheme.

Family lawyers should also be passionate about social values, as undesirable tactics during the process will have a lasting impact on people's lives and, consequently, weaken the social fabric of our society. It can also result in unnecessary financial burden if lawyers feel that they can get more fees by prolonging the proceedings.

Many lawyers do not just practise family law but are also involved in other civil and commercial litigations. Commercial litigations are by nature highly adversarial and family lawyers need to have different skill sets to deal with the emotional aspects of family-related cases. Family cases do not just involve two conflicting parties, but their children as well.

Practical social skills, the ability to communicate effectively and a genuine interest in helping parties are not skills that are normally taught in law schools.

The formation of the committee involving both the legal fraternity and the social services sector, together with the Family Law Practitioner scheme, will be a step in the right direction in improving the family justice system.

This, coupled with the Singapore University of Social Sciences' School of Law that focuses on training of family and criminal lawyers, will hopefully result in a stronger system to deal with the rising divorce rates in our society.

Kho Choon Joo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 31, 2017, with the headline 'Family lawyers should have right aptitude and attitude'. Print Edition | Subscribe