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Singapore: Legal Excellence in the Digital Era

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The Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) is taking decisive steps to bolster the training and professional development of lawyers, aiming to enhance Singapore’s competitiveness as a leading hub for legal services.

Image credit: sal.org.sg

In response to the growing influence of infocomm technologies, particularly generative artificial intelligence (AI), in the legal domain, SAL is aligning its initiatives with the recommendations from a Working Group tasked with reviewing the legal education and training regime.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, also the President of SAL, emphasised the need for legal professionals to adapt to the demands of modern practice. A pivotal component of SAL’s strategy is the introduction of a National Competency Framework for the legal profession.

This framework, based on the Learning and Innovation Framework for Training and Education (LIFTED), will be tailored to align with SkillsFuture. It aims to provide a structured roadmap, recommending courses or programs essential for lawyers to cultivate core competencies at various career stages.

SAL is set to launch the Junior Lawyers Professional Certification Programme (JLP) in the coming year. This voluntary programme targets lawyers with less than five years of post-qualification experience, focusing on practical skills in either disputes or corporate work, alongside management and professional ethics.

The JLP will incorporate scenario-based learning, problem-solving exercises, and simulations to equip participants with the necessary tools to navigate legal and ethical challenges in their roles. To incentivise lifelong learning, SAL is introducing a substantial increase in credit dollars for its members. Starting in 2024, over 12,500 SAL members will receive an annual credit of S$250, a significant boost from the current S$35 per year.

These credits can be utilised to enrol in workshops, conferences, and structured training programmes like the JLP, and access legal research services, including e-books from Academy Publishing and LawNet subscriptions.

Recognising the vital role of corporate lawyers, SAL is enhancing its offerings to meet their specific needs. Planned upgrades to LawNet’s commercial precedents database, new practical guides on regional regulatory and compliance requirements, and standardised boilerplate clauses for Asian commercial contracts are in the pipeline. Additionally, resources detailing cross-border data transfer rules in select Asian jurisdictions will be available from 15 January 2024.

Yeong Zee Kin, Chief Executive of SAL, reiterated the organisation’s commitment to investing in the learning and professional development of its members. With an increased emphasis on lifelong learning and greater financial support, SAL aims to encourage more members to actively participate in training programmes.

The organisation hopes that this enhanced investment will inspire law firms and other employers to prioritise the ongoing development of legal professionals in Singapore. The multifaceted approach of SAL underscores its proactive stance in equipping lawyers with the skills and knowledge needed to navigate the evolving landscape of modern legal practices, especially in the era of AI.

In addition, OpenGov Asia earlier reported that the Working Group for the Reform of Legal Education in Singapore has proposed groundbreaking recommendations to align the legal profession with the digital era. Recognising global trends and the impact of the digital revolution, the recommendations aim to equip Singapore’s legal professionals for future industry demands.

The inclusive composition of the Working Group reflects a collaborative effort to enhance the legal education and training framework. Stakeholder engagement and consultations contributed to practical ways to elevate the legal education regime, emphasising a forward-looking approach.

The proposals integrate digital competencies, fostering lifelong learning and adaptability. Additionally, the Ministry of Law and the Infocomm Media Development Authority launched the Legal Industry Digital Plan, a milestone initiative addressing AI and Generative AI solutions for Singapore Law Practices, aligning with the broader digitalisation success.

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