SINGAPORE - Lawyers who specialise in building and construction law can now get their skills recognised through a new accreditation scheme rolled out by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL).
The move will enable potential clients here and abroad to identify lawyers with proven records in this field and comes at a time of an expected upswing in local and regional constuction activity in the next five years.Local projects would include the High Speed Rail link to Kuala Lumpur, the Tuas terminal and hospital development.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who announced the launch of the Specialist Accreditation Scheme at the opening of the Legal Year 2017 on Monday, said such a specialist scheme will improve the quality of Singapore's legal services and the standard of the Bar in general, without disadvantaging those who choose to remain non-accredited.
"Participation in the scheme will be entirely voluntary and it will not be exclusionary. Thus non-accredited lawyers will continue to be able to practice in a field of specialisation, in the same way that those who are not appointed Senior Counsel are nonetheless able to practise as advocates.
"But accreditation will function as a mark of recognition that a particular lawyer, in fact, has particular skills and expertise."
The scheme adopts a two-tier system: a lower tier (accredited specialist) for younger lawyers and an upper tier( senior accredited specialist) for more experienced legal practitioners. Candidates will be assessed by a panel comprising judges, industry professionals and legal practitioners.
SAL said the first batch of accredited specialists will be announced in January 2018 and plans to extend the scheme to other areas of law in the future.
Wong Partnership's Head of Infrastructure, Construction & Engineering Practice , Mr Christopher Chuah in welcoming the initiative, noted there are similar schemes in the US, Australia and the European Union, among others.
" The introduction of a similar scheme in Singapore will incentivise both our senior and younger legal practioners to hone their skills and knowledge in this area of practice and aspire to achieve excellence in this field."
The new scheme is one of two initiatives by the SAL to boost legal training and development in Singapore.
The second initiative enables legal practitioners, legal services support staff and para-legals to upgrade and boost their skills to specialist levels. For instance, an N level holder can enrol and acquire the skills of a legal secretary.
The SAL said "members of the legal community can chart a career path for themselves by identifying what requisite skills they need to acquire before they can move up to a higher-level role in their areas of practice or cross over to a different role within the legal sector."
The SAL is developing the scheme, named Legal Industry Framework for Training and Education (Lifted) in collaboration with key industry stakeholders.
Lifted enables a user to identify the competencies required for practitioners, in-house counsel and legal support staff and find a corresponding training programme to match his needs, whether in the form of classroom teaching or online media.
In announcing the scheme on Monday, CJ Menon said that given the changing face of legal practice, the industry "must continue to invest in ensuring that our lawyers have the skills and competence that will be required of them in the years to come".
For a start, Lifted will identify competencies and courses for corporate and commercial law, family law, legal technologies and legal support roles.
"This is part of the nationwide SkillsFuture initiative to promote individual personal and professional development," he said. "Lifted will help members of the profession identity and develop core and specialist competencies in their particular areas of practice."
The scheme will be implemented in phases this year, beginning with legal support roles.
Lifted can be accessed at www.LIFTED.sg.