A 47 per cent increase in students studying law, in the UK and Australia over the past three years, has led to increased competition for training contracts with law firms in Singapore.
Numbers were revealed by Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 10), following recent news that eight UK law schools would be dropped from the list recognised for admission to the Singapore Bar.
The number at UK universities has doubled over four years, hitting 1,140 students in 2013. For Australian universities, that number has gone up by more than 25 per cent, hitting around 390 students in 2013.
Speaking in Parliament, MP Hri Kumar Nair, who is the Government Parliamentary Committee Chair for Home Affairs and Law, said that the glut of law graduates had given way to a shortage of training contracts.
“From a dearth of lawyers a few years ago, we are now faced with law graduates not being able to secure training contracts. Last year there were about 650 law graduates, but only about 490 training contracts.”
“Figures from the Ministry show that only about 70 per cent of foreign-trained graduates managed to secure training contracts with firms here, compared to around 94 per cent of local graduates.”
TRAINING CONTRACT FRAMEWORK UNDER REVIEW
Ms Indranee said that work was already underway by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) to fix the problem.
“SILE has put in place measures to facilitate more training contracts. Senior lawyers can now supervise up to four practice trainees, instead of two, at any time. The SILE has also set up a Working Party to review the practice training framework,” she said.
“However, it ultimately depends on the number of trainees that senior solicitors can effectively supervise, and which the firms can eventually retain.”
She added that the Law Ministry’s objective is to ensure a sufficient pipeline of quality legal talent to support Singapore’s legal needs.
“We uphold high standards to maintain quality. We do not try to beat the market mechanism by controlling numbers, but have the responsibility to inform aspiring lawyers of the situation to enable them to make informed choices on whether, and where, to pursue a law degree.”
Ms Indranee also pointed out that while there is no overall shortage of lawyers, many are keen to practise commercial and business law. This means a shortage in some areas of practice, like criminal and family law.
LOCAL LAW GRADUATE NUMBERS FAIRLY CONSTANT
While overseas law graduate numbers climb, the number of local law graduates has remained fairly constant. Fewer than 400 students graduate with a local law degree each year.