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Law ministry seeks feedback on proposed changes to professional training for Singapore lawyers

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An earlier proposed change is to uncouple Bar admission from practice training, which means graduates who wish to qualify for a practising certificate and serve as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court will have to complete the professional training period.

[SINGAPORE] Singapore's Ministry of Law is seeking public feedback on moves to implement the recommendations of a committee tasked with conducting a thorough review of the professional training regime for law graduates.

A key move is to introduce the title of "Lawyer (Non-Practitioner)" for graduates who will be admitted to the Bar without completing practice training, under a proposed new regime.

The suggested title - reflected as "Lawyer (NP)" in qualification - recognises that such individuals have obtained the necessary academic qualifications to be part of the legal profession, but are not qualified to practise.

This term also most accurately describes the class of legal professionals who work as in-house counsel, academics and policymakers, says the consultation paper.

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The new title is among the issues for public consultation as the Ministry of Law seeks to implement recommendations by the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers (CPTL).

The committee, chaired by Justice Quentin Loh, was appointed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon in 2016 to conduct a root-and-branch review of the professional training regime to determine how it might be modified to raise the quality and consistency of training standards across law practices.

The CPTL had earlier proposed key changes, including uncoupling Bar admission from practice training.

This will allow law graduates who fulfil qualifying requirements to be admitted to the Bar without first completing the practice training period (PTP). The change will benefit those who seek alternative careers, such as in-house counsel, practice support lawyers and law academics, instead of becoming practising lawyers.

Graduates who wish to qualify for a practising certificate and serve as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court will have to complete the PTP.

Other key changes include raising the standard and stringency of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations, and lengthening the practice training period from six months to one year.

The committee also made 17 other specific recommendations to support the new professional training regime.

The proposals were accepted in-principle in August last year by the Ministry of Law, which said the key changes will be implemented from the 2023 session of the Part B exams to give the industry and students time to adjust.

The public consultation, which runs from Nov 15 to Dec 27, seeks feedback on the moves to implement the recommendations.

Key issues identified by a working group for public consultation include the nomenclature for the new group of individuals who will be admitted to the Bar without having completed their practice training; the privileges and obligations to be conferred on this new group, and the rights conferred to trainees under the new practice training regime.

Other recommendations include the criteria for in-house legal departments that will be permitted to provide practice training for up to three months, and when trainees can complete this training during the PTP.

Interested parties may view and provide feedback to the public consultation paper at https://go.gov.sg/cptlconsult

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