3 out of 4 local lawyers leave practice in the first 10 years of practising: LawSoc president

By the first decade of practice, three out of every four local lawyers would have opted to leave practice, said Law Society president Lok Vi Ming.

The figure was revealed by Mr Lok in his speech at the opening of the legal year on Friday. Providing an overview of the current state of affairs in the legal fraternity, he said there are now more than 4,500 local lawyers practising in Singapore, after the number of lawyers here exceeded the 4,000-mark for the first time in 2012.

The distribution of lawyers according to seniority as of October last year comprised 1,697 junior lawyers, who have less than seven years of post-qualification experience (PQE); 386 with between seven and 12 years of PQE and 2,466 senior lawyers with more than 12 years of experience.

"The striking figure is of course the low number of practitioners in the middle category," said Mr Lok. "In light of the current strength of our economy which started its recovery in early 2005, it is likely that the majority of the practitioners in this category - who joined the profession between 2002 and 2006 - probably decided to leave in the good years which suggest that they have left the profession as other career options in other industries became available with the improvement of the economy."

Still, it is difficult to determine if there was a predominant reason why lawyers left in their first decade of practice, he added. "It may be due to the aggressiveness of practice, may be the lure of greener pastures elsewhere, or may be a combination of both... whatever the reason, we want to do what we can to stem the exodus of lawyers from this vulnerable segment of our profession."

Mr Lok, a Senior Counsel, said the Law Society will consider carrying out a survey to better understand the concerns, hopes and aspirations of members not just of the middle category, but profession wide.

Unlike previous years, there were no new appointments of Senior Counsel - a title given to outstanding lawyers with extensive knowledge of the law and the highest professional standing - at Friday's event.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in his speech said each and every Senior Counsel is held to high standards and appointed after a stringent selection process since the first batch were appointed in 1997. "This year, while a number were meritorious, none met requirements, he said.

There are a total of 54 Senior Counsel in Singapore, 40 of whom are practising lawyers.