Singapore, 2 June 2010 – The Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) will be seeking public feedback on a proposed plan to introduce a compulsory Continuing Professional Development (“CPD”) scheme for the legal profession in Singapore. Under this scheme, Singapore lawyers will be required to fulfil a specified number of hours every year on legal education programmes before they can renew their practising certificates.
The introduction of a mandatory legal education scheme for all advocates and solicitors was recommended in the September 2007 Report by the Committee to Develop the Singapore Legal Sector chaired by Judge of Appeal Justice V K Rajah. The Committee was of the view that this would not only broaden the legal knowledge of practitioners but will also provide useful training for those who are contemplating switching to a different area of practice. The Government accepted this recommendation.
The Board of the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (“SILE”)¹ chaired by Justice V K Rajah is currently developing the framework for Continuing Professional Development in Singapore. The aim is to ensure that our lawyers are kept updated on Singapore law and connected to the legal fraternity. SILE, a subsidiary of the Singapore Academy of Law will serve as an umbrella institution to administer and oversee formal training programmes for lawyers-to-be and CPD programmes for practitioners.
The Board’s recommendations will be put to a public consultation in October 2010 with the view to introducing the CPD scheme in phases starting with a trial period from June 2011, with full implementation by April 2012. The CPD scheme will be administered by the SILE when it becomes operational in 2011.
Currently there are about 3,600 lawyers holding practising certificates. Under the scheme, all Singapore lawyers who hold practising certificates will be required to clock a prescribed number of hours of professional development requirements every year. These will include attending courses, seminars, writing and publication of articles or lecturing. Senior lawyers will be allowed and in fact, are encouraged to fulfil their CPD requirements by sharing their experiences with younger lawyers to foster the community spirit.
Law academics, paralegals, in-house counsel, arbitrators, legal counsel in government ministries and foreign lawyers will initially be exempted from CPD requirements. However academics in the law schools will be encouraged to participate as lecturers in the various CPD programmes.
“The law is a profession of life-long learning and the best lawyers are those who learn all the time,” said Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong. “For the CPD scheme to be effective, it must be seen as providing real value to both the individual practitioner as well as the wider legal community. Lawyers must be attracted to attend such courses as they would be brought up to speed on the latest developments in the law without having to invest large amounts of time, effort and resources.”
CPD programmes and courses will be run by accredited providers like the SILE, Singapore Academy of Law, the Law Society, National University of Singapore (“NUS”) and Singapore Management University (“SMU”). Law firms and other organisations who wish to provide CPD seminars can also apply for accreditation.
Continuing professional development is not a new concept. It is already practised by the various professions in Singapore and elsewhere. In working out the scheme, the working committee will be looking at various CPD schemes governing the legal profession in United Kingdom, Australia and Hong Kong. The committee will also seek feedback from various stakeholders in the legal fraternity before the scheme is finalised. These include the Law Society, the NUS and SMU law schools, Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, Senior Counsel Forum and a cross-section of members from small, medium and large-sized firms.
¹ The Board of Directors of SILE was appointed on 18 May 2010.
About Singapore Academy of Law
The Singapore Academy of Law is the umbrella body of the legal community in Singapore and has more than 8,000 members.
The Academy’s activities are driven by three strategic priorities – enhancing legal knowledge, improving efficiency of legal practice through the use of technology and supporting the legal industry. The work in each of these areas is directed towards raising the standards and quality of legal practice and building a strong legal community in Singapore.
Besides its role as the official law reporting agency in Singapore, the Academy’s other functions include providing continuing legal education for its members, legal publications, promoting legal research and scholarship, the reform and development of the law, and alternative dispute resolution.
For more details on the Singapore Academy of Law, visit www.sal.org.sg