Class of degree plays limited role in identifying legal eagles

Tuesday's report ("More students can earn first-class honours from NUS Law") has caused a ripple among law schools here.

The change, however, need not cause panic or frenzy of any kind.

Law firms are clearly aware - or should at least be aware - that degree classifications of graduates play a limited role in identifying the ones who will become the next rising stars.

Is a second-class (upper division) honours degree, or even a first-class honours degree, a guarantee that law graduates will be strong, passionate practitioners who will not leave the profession within the first seven years of practice?

I think not.

Increasing the proportion of National University of Singapore law graduates attaining a second-class (upper division) honours degree and above does nothing to change the quality of its graduates.

The same can be said of the removal last year of eight British law schools from the list of overseas universities recognised for admission to the Singapore Bar ("Shorter list of approved UK law schools welcomed"; Feb 26, 2015); nothing changed the quality of their graduates.

These labels that should mean little to hirers will not help hirers separate the wheat from the chaff.

Instead, these mere administrative changes will grant foresight to law graduates and commercial clients alike on which firms have the best business minds.

This is because, truly, the most astute of hirers would rely on their own keen senses rather than on arbitrary indicators.

Alvin Tay Bok Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'Class of degree plays limited role in identifying legal eagles'. Print Edition | Subscribe