3 out of 4 Singapore lawyers leave practice in first decade: Law Society chief

3 out of 4 lawyers leave practice in first decade: Law Society chief

Monday, January 6, 2014 – 06:00

Ian Poh

The Straits Times

SINGAPORE – About three out of four local lawyers leave practice in their first 10 years on the job, Law Society president Lok Vi Ming said on Friday. The Senior Counsel, who was speaking at the Opening of the Legal Year, said the figure was based on the 1,250 to 1,400 law graduates who joined the profession between 2002 and 2006. Just 386 of this group were still in practice as of last October, said Mr Lok.“It is difficult to discern the one predominant reason why lawyers left in huge numbers in the first decade of their practices,” he said. “It may be due to the aggressiveness of practice, the lure of greener pastures elsewhere, or a combination of both.”

Mr Lok noted that the number of local practitioners here exceeded 4,000 for the first time in 2012. By last month, the figure had swelled to 4,549.

But while there were 1,697 junior lawyers with less than seven years of post-qualification experience and 2,466 senior lawyers of more than 12 years’ standing as of last October, there were only 386 practitioners in the middle category of seven to 12 years’ experience.

This, said Mr Lok, was “striking”.

Most lawyers in this group, he said, had likely left when career opportunities elsewhere emerged with the improvement of the economy beginning in early 2005.

“We want to do what we can to stem the exodus of lawyers from this vulnerable segment of our profession,” said Mr Lok.

Lawyers say they know of peers who have quit to move into fields as diverse as consultancy work, the travel agency business and even the culinary industry.

Mr Benedict Teo, a director at Drew & Napier, believes the main reason why lawyers are tempted to move on is “the proliferation of options available outside of legal practice” which are not always about money.

Said the 34-year-old lawyer of eight years’ standing: “We entered the profession at a time when there was a certain emphasis on entrepreneurship.

“Not everyone sees practice as a lifelong profession. I know many friends who have left the field for business-related jobs.

“As an entrepreneur, you’re your own boss. We are a society that is more materially stable as opposed to the past. Lawyers of the older generations generally had no alternative rice bowl. Ours doesn’t hold that kind of fear.”

Mr Lok said the Law Society will consider doing a survey to better understand lawyers’ concerns.

Meanwhile, there were no new appointments of Senior Counsel on Friday. The title was first given in 1997 to outstanding lawyers who can act as role models to the rest of the profession – particularly on matters of ethics, responsibility and professional ability.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said considerations for selection include “creditable appearances” in the High Court and Court of Appeal, the quality and delivery of their arguments, and a proven track record of public service.

“This year… while a number of candidates were meritorious in several respects… none as yet sufficiently met these criteria.”

There are 53 Senior Counsel in Singapore, 40 of whom are practising lawyers.

Attorney-General Steven Chong, who also spoke at the event at the Supreme Court Auditorium on Friday, shared updates on recent initiatives from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.

One is a pilot scheme started last April to help vulnerable people during criminal investigations through the involvement of “appropriate adults” or neutral volunteers. It has been “very positively received”, he said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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