Students eyeing law career urged to weigh pros and cons

Students considering a law career should weigh the tough competition against the lure of the prospects, said Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong.

He urged those eyeing a law degree to choose "something that is sustainable for themselves in the long term and not do this because it makes a lot of money or is something very glamorous".

The Senior Counsel was speaking yesterday to some 200 students from several junior colleges and polytechnics taking part in the Singapore Academy of Law's Junior College Law Programme 2019.

In the two-week event, participants are assigned to a legal practitioner in a law firm or elsewhere who will walk them through the day-to-day job over a week.

Providing a local perspective on the legal industry, Mr Tong listed the exciting developments, but at the same time cautioned that not all law graduates will end up in practice. He noted that by next year, there will be 850 law graduates entering the market each year, including about 350 estimated to return from overseas universities.

The industry has close to 5,700 practising Singapore lawyers.

Mr Tong said the lawyer population on a per capita basis is growing, and it means the "prospects will be tougher and the competition will be stiffer".

But he also noted that the Government has undertaken various initiatives to position Singapore as a legal hub, to grow the legal sector and generate jobs for Singaporeans. These include developing Singapore as an international dispute resolution hub, with infrastructure like Maxwell Chambers.

A public consultation exercise was launched last week to implement proposals by the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers. One key recommendation was to decouple the call to the Bar from the right to practise as a lawyer.

This means a future law graduate will no longer have to complete a practice training contract in order to be called, which in turn allows more law graduates to enter the legal profession and contribute in a wider variety of capacities, and not just as a practising lawyer.

Feedback on the annual programme, which is in its 11th edition, has been positive.

Ms Naomi Low, who posted her 2017 experience on the website of OTP Law Corporation, said: "There were times when I felt that I was not being of much help, or that I was troubling the rest from their work.

"However, my experience here has been nothing short of eye-opening and educational, as I learnt a lot about the law, the working world, as well as myself while I was here."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2019, with the headline Students eyeing law career urged to weigh pros and cons. Subscribe