How to be a lawyer in Singapore even if you don’t study here

Watched some of USA’s Suits and want to put on a fancy suit to become a “closer” like Harvey Specter? Here’s what you need to know to practice law in Singapore. Before we get into the technical details on what it takes to become a lawyer, you should really consider if law is your cup of tea.

lawyer-Singapore
Law isn’t quite what television series make it out to be. You don’t waltz and swagger around courtrooms and high-risk skyscrapers all the time. The bulk of your time is probably going to be spent doing really dry paperwork, drafting legal memos for your senior partners and associates late into the night while chugging down copious amounts of caffeine. However, if you have a true passion in law, and are dedicated to uphold justice and order, then the challenges posed to you in this hectic life is not going to stand against your immeasurable drive.

A Quality Education

Studying law is no easy feat. Qualifying itself is extremely difficult. You need straight As for your A levels to meet the academic requirements. Even if you do, there is no guarantee of admission. You have to prove your worth in your interview at the universities so you need to be able to speak up and impress the interviewers, something all aspiring lawyers should be able to do.
There are 2 local schools that offer law in Singapore., NUS and SMU, both of which have very limited places. Hence, some may consider the option of going overseas for their education. The number of law schools recognised by the Ministry of Law has been drastically cut, probably to ensure we get quality graduates and to deal with the oversaturated law market. Please ensure that the law degree you get is recognised by Singapore. You can check out the list of foreign degrees accredited by Singapore here.

Singapore
National University of Singapore
Singapore Management University
United Kingdom
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Cambridge
University of Durham
King’s College, London, University of London
London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London
Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London
University College, University of London
University of Nottingham
University of Oxford
University of Warwick
Australia
Australian National University
Flinders University
Monash University
Murdoch University
University of Melbourne
University of New South Wales
University of Queensland
University of Sydney
University of Tasmania
University of Western Australia
New Zealand
University of Auckland
Victoria University of Wellington
United States of America
Columbia University
Harvard University
New York University
University of Michigan

Studying Hard

You aren’t guaranteed a job in law once you graduate from law school. Law graduates must attain at least a Lower Second Class Honours from one of the above prescribed universities and complete a course of study of at least three (3) academic years as a full-time internal candidate from that approved university according to the Ministry of Law. Nobody said it was going to be easy, but good things don’t come without tremendous effort.

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Making the Cut

Achieving good grades in law school isn’t sufficient to make you a full fledged lawyer. You still have to pass “The Bar”. Not everyone has to take the same exams in the bar.
For students who studied law locally you only need to take Part B of the exam.
For overseas students, you have to complete both Part A and B.

Part A: Qualified Degree Obtained Outside of Singapore

Part A of the Bar Examination lasts 6 months and is offered by the National University of Singapore (NUS)’s Law Faculty. If you feel unprepared for the exam, NUS also offers a 3-month optional prep course.
There are 5 compulsory subjects in total:

• Criminal Law
• Singapore Legal System & Constitutional Law
• Land Law
• Company Law
• Evidence Law

; in which you must pass all of them.
Schedule wise, it isn’t too hectic. There are 3 hours of classes per subject per week, conducted during regular working hours.
Following the course, you need to meet at least 6 continuous months of “relevant legal practice, work or training”.
A certificate of completion will be awarded to candidates who successfully complete Part A of the Bar Course. Candidates holding the certificate from completing Part A must then complete Part B with other local law school graduates.
Course and Examination fees for 2014, inclusive of GST are as follows:
Singapore Citizens – S$3,500;
Singapore Permanent Residents – S$3,800;
International Students – S$7,360.

Part B of the course is conducted by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education

Just for your information, candidates may not engage in any employment, whether full-time or part-time without the prior consent of the Director of the Course.

The 7 compulsory subjects are:

• Civil Litigation Practice
• Criminal Litigation Practice
• Insolvency Law and Practice
• Real Estate Practice
• Family Law Practice
• Ethics & Professional Responsibility
• Professional Skills

The fees for 2015 are:
Course & Examination Fees (inclusive of GST)
Singapore Citizens:SGD6,420.00
Singapore Permanent Residents:SGD7,490.00
Foreign Candidates:SGD9,095.00

Getting Some Work Exposure

A practice training period is a requirement for admission as an advocate and solicitor. It is the period during which you are required to receive supervised training related to practicing Singapore law.

Application

Firstly, you must obtain approval of the Singapore Institute of Legal education as to how you are serving your practice training period.

In order to do so, you must send to the Institute’s Bar Admissions and Examinations (Part B) Office a written request (not an email) stating 1) When you are starting your training 2) How you are serving your training period, your supervising solicitor’s name and other details as well as the organisation and department of that officer. The nitty-gritty details on drafting the letter can be found here.

Requirements

The duration of the practice training period is 6 months. However, there is a catch. If you
receive supervised training by working as a Legal Service Officer or working under the supervision of a qualifying relevant legal officer, 6 months of such supervised training will only count as 1 month of his practice training period. Sadly, that means if you serve your entire practice training period that way, the duration of the training period is a whopping 36 months.

Practice Training Contracts

To officially certify your training, you need to draft up a training contract with the relevant law practice in Singapore. There are several legal and technical requirements in which you can obtain more details here as well.

Once you have passed the bar and completed your training period, congratulations, you are a full-fledged lawyer certified to practice in Singapore, all that’s left is finding a good job, upholding your integrity and remembering why you chose law in the first place. Hopefully, its not because of the money, because the working hours (up till the wee mornings don’t really justify the pay). More importantly, it’s because those who truly excel in their field of expertise are incentivised by passion and not pay.