17 October 2018

New scheme gives young lawyers their day in court

21 law Singaporean law firms pledge to create more chances for young lawyers to advocate as lead counsel in court.

Twenty-one law firms in Singapore, including Drew & Napier and Tan Rajah & Cheah, have agreed to offer increased opportunities for young lawyers to represent their clients in court.

Pledge signed

The pledge was signed by managing partners of the participating firms at the Supreme Court, witnessed by chief justice Sundaresh Menon. The Young Members Chapter, under the Singapore Academy of Law's Professional Affairs Committee, has introduced the new scheme helping senior lawyers from the firms to identify and give their young colleagues an opportunity to advocate at all stages of a proceeding as lead counsel. Support is also coming from the judiciary by amending the Supreme Court's Practice Directions to require, among other things, a lead counsel to inform the court ‘as early as is practicable’ whether the advocacy tasks for a trial or a hearing will be shared with junior counsel. Judge of appeal Steven Chong, who chairs the Singapore Academy of Law's Professional Affairs Committee, explained the pledge is an important milestone in the development of the Bar and marks a collective signal to the profession, particularly for younger members as well as law students, both current and future, that steps are being taken to ‘provide more opportunities to develop their potential to the fullest.’

Default postion

Speaking at the signing ceremony, justice Steven Chong, said the unprecedented growth of the profession over the last two decades has come at a cost. He explained, ‘almost as a default, clients would typically prefer to use the senior members of the litigation practices. This has unfortunately translated into a lack of opportunities for the younger members to cut their teeth in court and has in turn led to a diminishing pool of middle-tier advocates.’ He said this ‘unhealthy trend needs to be handled. The Law Society of Singapore's website shows that 1,825 of the 5,191 practising lawyers last year had less than five years of practice. Mid-tier lawyers with five to 15 years of experience numbered 1,045 while those with more than 15 years experience numbered 2,321.