Why It Matters

Tackling glut of lawyers

Trainee lawyer Ainichal Kaur served two years as a junior legal assistant with a law firm here before committing to study law in London with the help of a long-term bank loan.

The 24-year-old daughter of a cabby graduated last month, and is now undergoing the requisite relevant legal training at a law firm here. She had gained an understanding of the career before taking it up.

Her clear-eyed approach to a legal career differs from a "disturbing" trend that Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon noted last week in an address to new lawyers called to the Bar. He said a "surprisingly" large number of candidates interviewed for job placements seems to have "little, if any, inkling of the law as a profession that finds its place in society in notions of justice, service and doing right".

In Singapore, there is now an oversupply of law graduates and too few training placements for them.

CJ Menon called for this problem to be addressed at source. He suggested that those who choose to study law should examine their reasons for doing so and if they are lured by financial motives, they should look elsewhere or be disappointed.

National University of Singapore law dean Simon Chesterman noted that there are now more Singaporeans reading law in England than in Singapore law schools.

CJ Menon described the difficulty of getting training placements as one of two challenges facing aspiring lawyers - the other is having a fair shot at being retained by a law firm after the training contract ends. He has put in place a broad-based committee to undertake a root and branch review of the training contract regime, including the process by which candidates are assessed for retention in a firm.

Universities abroad have little reason to restrict their intakes given the fees paid by foreign students.

The CJ's remarks on current lawyer oversupply and moves to redress it will help those planning to study law overseas weigh up whether the costs and benefits in doing so tally with their career motives.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2016, with the headline 'Tackling glut of lawyers'. Print Edition | Subscribe