Singapore launches ‘China-Ready Programme’ to deepen legal services cooperation with China.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) in Singapore, has recently launched a new programme targeting the legal industry. The educational programme is designed to help Singaporean legal professionals understand Chinese culture, business environment, legal systems and laws, as well as improving their understanding of Mandarin used in a legal context.  The programme, as well as a series of secondments and networking events, is part of MinLaw’s three-pronged strategy helping to increase opportunities in the legal services market between China and Singapore.

The programme hopes to meet the growing Chinese market for legal services. China has been Singapore’s largest trading partner and Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor for six consecutive years since 2013. Whilst in 2018, Singapore was the largest foreign investment destination for China along the Belt and Road, capturing close to 23% of total investment flow from China to Belt and Road countries. Whilst the launch is well-timed to meet the signing of the Singapore Convention on mediation.

More information on the programme, which will be developed and delivered by the Han Culture & Education Group (HCEG), which is a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is available here.

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Singapore’s Ministry of Law Accepts Recommendation to Strengthen Professional Training of Lawyers

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) announced on 30 August 2018 that it has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers on strengthening the professional training regime for lawyers in Singapore. The key recommendations include: (a) uncoupling admission to the Bar from the completion of a practice training contract; (b) lengthening the practice training period from six months to one year; and (c) raising the standard and stringency of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations. The Committee also made 17 other specific recommendations to address discrete issues within the professional training regime. The implementation of these recommendations will help raise the quality of legal training and better equip law graduates with the necessary expertise to meet the demands of the future economy and society.

MinLaw will work with stakeholders, including the Law Society of Singapore and the Singapore Institute of Legal Education, on the implementation of the recommendations. The three key recommendations will be implemented from the 2023 session of Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations onwards, to give the industry time to adjust. The majority of students currently in law school will not be affected by these changes.

Read more in the MinLaw Press Release

Singapore Academy of Law launches programme to create a vibrant ecosystem for legal tech

The Singapore Academy of Law has now formally launched its Future Law Innovation Programme (FLIP) and will work with the Singapore Management University (SMU), among others, to drive change.

 

FLIP initially will run a two-year pilot programme to encourage the adoption of technology, drive innovation and ‘create a vibrant ecosystem for legal technology‘ in the important SE Asia legal and business hub.

 

As a good model for other countries to follow, FLIP comprises three components:

  • a Legal Innovation Lab located at the Collision 8 co-working space across the road from the Supreme Court.
  • a virtual collaboration platform called LawNet Community.
  • South East Asia’s first legal tech accelerator to groom promising legal tech start-ups, (which will be launched in April 2018).

So far 23 entities have signed up for FLIP. These range from large law firms (such as Rajah & Tann Singapore LLP and Dentons Rodyk & Davidson), small law firms (including ECYT Law LLC and Consigclear LLC), to local and international legal tech enterprises like SingaporeLegalAdvice.com, LexQuanta, MyLawyer and Zegal (formerly Dragon Law), as well as in- house counsel from Discovery Networks and BNP Paribas.

Participants may enrol in a maximum of three tracks:

  • Lighten-up! – for smaller law firms that want to leverage technology to operate a lean back-end.
  • Ideate! – which brings together lawyers and technopreneurs to collaborate on legal innovation.
  • Accelerate! – a 100-day acceleration programme to help promising tech-based legal enterprises start-ups scale up their business.

For more information about this initiative see the FLIP website.

Singapore: unclaimed Money Fund to fund pro bono services

Recent amendments to the Legal Profession Act, passed in Parliament on 20 March, have provided a practical solution to unclaimed client money. Currently, if a client becomes uncontactable, the legislation does not provide for what happens to unclaimed client money, and a law practice would have to continue to hold such money. The amendments to the Legal Profession Act introduces a new framework to deal with unclaimed client money – a practitioner or law practice may transfer such money to a new Unclaimed Money Fund, maintained and administered by the Law Society.

The Law Society may invest or use the money in the Unclaimed Money Fund to fund pro bono services provided by the Law Society or through Law Society Pro Bono Services (a registered charity and Institution of a Public Character), which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Law Society.

Currently, law practices in Singapore are required to hold client money in a separate account, known as a client account, until money is returned or paid out according to the client’s instructions. A practitioner who holds or receives client money is required to submit an accountant’s report to the Law Society together with his application for a practising certificate on a yearly basis.

If a client becomes uncontactable, the law practice concerned would have no other option but to continue to hold any unclaimed money. In respect of practitioners wishing to retire or cease practice (in particular sole proprietors), unclaimed client money has caused inconvenience as only a practitioner with a practising certificate is permitted to operate a client account of a law practice. The only direction the Law Society has been able to give to retiring practitioners is to find another practitioner in practice willing to act as legal manager to hold the unclaimed client money. The legal manager would have to account to the Law Society for such moneys with an accountant’s report on a yearly basis.

With the recent amendments to the Legal Profession Act, practitioners and Singapore law practices will now be able to transfer unclaimed client money into the Unclaimed Money Fund, provided that they satisfy certain requirements (prescribed by the Law Society) and the Law Society approves the transfer. These requirements would include making reasonable efforts to return the money to the client.

Should the lawful owner of the unclaimed client money resurface, there is a mechanism for such persons to apply to the Law Society for the transferred money to be returned. Such applications must be made within a six-year limitation period. Nevertheless, Law Society will have a discretion to make ex gratia payments from the Unclaimed Money Fund to claimants who apply after the limitation period.

The new framework covers unclaimed intervention money as well. The Law Society has the power to intervene in a law practice in specified circumstances, including where a sole proprietor has died. As part of the intervention, the Law Society may take over the administration of the client account. Client money in these client accounts is called intervention money.

Intervention money is transferred into a special account held by the Law Society. If the intervention money is unclaimed after six years, it is credited to the Law Society’s Compensation Fund, which is a fund to compensate those who suffer financial losses due to a practitioner’s misconduct.

The amendments to the Legal Profession Act provide for intervention money that has been unclaimed for 6 years in the special account to be transferred to the Unclaimed Money Fund instead of the Compensation Fund.

Article first published on the Law Society of Singapore website.

Help for Singapore lawyers to venture overseas

Earlier this year the Ministry of Law (MinLaw), the Law Society of Singapore (LawSoc) and International Enterprise (IE) Singapore launched a new programme to help Singapore lawyers and law firms venture overseas. Called “Lawyers Go Global”, the programme will connect Singapore legal expertise with global opportunities, through overseas mission trips, training, and branding and marketing.  The “Lawyers Go Global” programme implements the recommendation of the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) Working Group on Legal and Accounting Services and is aligned to the Professional Services Industry Transformation Map (ITM) to catalyse the internationalisation of local law firms. It is part of MinLaw’s broader effort for Singapore to capture a greater share of international demand for legal services and enhance Singapore’s position as an international legal hub.

Read more about this initiative

Singapore: Collaboration to drive thought leadership in legal education policy

The Law Society of Singapore and The College of Law have committed to develop and deliver legal education and training programmes to meet the needs of the legal profession in Singapore.  This is the first time the Law Society has collaborated with a legal education provider. Usually, the Law Society collaborates with other bar associations. The collaboration with the College will drive thought leadership in legal education policy.

The Law Society and the College will establish a 5-year development plan to prepare members of the legal profession for a future where lawyers require not only deep expertise in specific practice areas but also market knowledge and business skills.  Neville Carter, Group Chief Executive Officer of The College of Law, observed that Singapore law was increasingly the governing law in commercial transactions in this region, and there was a growing interest to know more about Singapore law.

Link to full story

Ministry of Law, Singapore – Reflections from the International Conference of Legal Regulators 2017

The International Conference of Legal Regulators (“ICLR”) network remains to this day the only platform for legal services regulators to discuss issues and trends relevant to our unique perspective as regulators of lawyers. At the annual ICLR, legal services regulators from participating jurisdictions are able to share knowledge and best practices, learn from each other and engage in wide-ranging discussion and debate.

The road to ICLR 2017

Singapore’s journey with ICLR first started in 2012, when representatives from the Ministry of Law attended the inaugural conference. Representatives from the Law Society of Singapore subsequently attended the 2014 and 2016 sessions and a representative from the Supreme Court of Singapore also attended the 2016 edition.

In 2017, the ICLR was held in Asia (in Singapore) for the first time, on 5 and 6 October 2017, spurred in part by the desire to extend the reach of the ICLR network in this part of the world and to encourage jurisdictions in this region to join this community of international legal services regulators.

As a result, the ICLR 2017 saw representatives from eight new jurisdictions, namely Guam, Kenya, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam. There was also broader representation from countries such as Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Organisers of ICLR 2017 from the Ministry of Law, Singapore and The Law Society of Singapore

In keeping with our objective, the theme for the 2017 conference was “Legal Regulation in a Borderless World: Building Networks”. An early challenge that we faced in organising the conference was selecting topics that we could be confident would appeal to the increasingly diverse community of legal regulators. As a result, we took the decision to depart from past practice and launched an open consultative process with all who indicated an interest in attending the conference, to reflect the views of new and mature regulators, as well as those from very different legal traditions.  We received ample feedback, which enabled us to play a curating role in selecting the final topics. Keeping the process as open as possible, we invited all who were interested in contributing as speakers to come forward and worked with the volunteers to settle on the modality of their sessions, and to fill any gaps in their panels.

We are pleased that through this process, we were able to ensure that the conference covered a broad range of current and emerging issues. The table below recaps the topics which were discussed across both days of the conference. The materials for the various sessions can be found on the ICLR portal.

The 2017 International Conference of Legal Regulators: Conference Sessions
Day 1 Day 2
Session 1: Legal Regulation in the Age of Data Session 5: Effective New Regulatory Responses to Complaints
Session 2: Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Financing of Terrorism Session 6: Disruption in the Legal Profession: Automated/Semi-Automated Online Delivery of  Legal Services
Session 3: A new Look at Regulators’ Roles and Responsibilities Session 7: Protecting the Vulnerable
Session 4: Attorney Wellbeing Session 8: Success Stories in Risk-Based Regulation

And so it began…

The welcome reception before the official start of the conference was held at the Supreme Court of Singapore on the evening of 4 October 2017, with a welcome address by Judge of Appeal Steven Chong. This customary social event afforded time for the ‘regulars’ to catch up with one another in an informal setting, and to meet new participants. Attendees also had an opportunity to tour the Supreme Court building and learn about Singapore’s legal history.


Tour of the Supreme Court of Singapore

Welcome reception at the Supreme Court of Singapore


Welcome reception at the Supreme Court of Singapore

The conference kicked off with a keynote address by our Senior Minister of State (“SMS”) for Finance and Law Ms Indranee Rajah SC. Her wide ranging address described the evolution of legal services regulation in Singapore before touching on the current challenges facing legal services regulators the world over. Ending on a positive note, Ms Rajah encouraged those present to embrace the opportunities that globalisation and innovation can bring to the legal services industry and which consumers can benefit from. Regulators today must strike a balance between safeguarding and protecting the public interest and encouraging innovation to keep pace with technological advancements.

Conference in session

The panel sessions and discussions have always been a highlight of past ICLRs and the 2017 edition was no different. To provide greater opportunity for audience participation, we introduced the use of the Pigeonhole Live app. The app enabled the audience to submit questions “live” during and after panel presentations, and also enabled the audience to “like” questions they wanted to see discussed. This enabled the moderators to gauge the audience’s interests and to give priority to the most popular questions. Seeing the questions streaming in and moving up or down the list as everyone quickly got the hang of how it worked added a novel and lively element to the conference sessions.

Panel on ‘Effective New Regulatory Responses to Complaints’

At the end of Day 1, the delegates made their way to Gardens by the Bay, where we celebrated a fruitful first day with a seafood dinner followed by a tour of the world’s largest glass greenhouse. We hope that those who did the tour enjoyed the conservatories and the iconic Supertrees!

Dinner at Majestic Bay Seafood Restaurant at Gardens by the Bay

Day 2 kicked off early with a pre-conference guided walk around Singapore’s arts and civic district. Participants got to hear about the history behind a number of historical sites and iconic buildings along the route.

Morning walk around Singapore’s arts and civic district


Morning walk around Singapore’s arts and civic district

Back at the conference venue, Day 2 opened with an address by The Lord Keen of Elie QC, Advocate General for Scotland and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice in the UK House of Lords. Lord Keen discussed the success factors that led to both Singapore and London’s emergence as premier centres for litigation and arbitration worldwide, namely, legal certainty, a pool of outstanding lawyers and recourse to a respected judiciary. As a legal services regulatory body, we were certainly proud to hear this!

Opening address by The Lord Keen of Elie QC, Advocate General for Scotland and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice in the UK House of Lords on Day 2 of the Conference


Delegates of ICLR 2017

A word of appreciation

It was both a pleasure and a privilege to have been given the opportunity to host the ICLR in Singapore. We would like to thank all who participated and spoke at the sessions for so generously contributing their expertise and time for free and paying their own way. This financial model enables the organisers to keep the conference fees affordable and ensures that the conference can be self-funding and self-sustaining. We thank everyone who joined us in Singapore for ICLR 2017. Ultimately, your support and participation was what ensured the ICLR’s success. Finally, for those who did not obtain a copy of the group photo, please feel free to write to us at ICLR2017@mlaw.gov.sg to get one.

For those who were not able to join us in Singapore, we hope that you will be able to attend this year’s conference in the Netherlands. We are confident that the dialogue amongst the legal services regulators on current issues in legal services regulation will continue at ICLR 2018 and we wish the Netherlands Bar Association every success in organising the conference.

This article was contributed by the Ministry of Law, Singapore.

ICLR 2017 – Panel: “Risk Based Approach to Regulation”

A synopsis of panel session 8, which takes place on 6 October at ICLR Singapore, kindly provided by the session’s  moderator, Victoria Rees.  Conference materials will be made available to ICLR.net members after the conference.

Moderator: Victoria Rees, Director of Professional Responsibility, Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society, Canada

Panelists:

  • Scott MacLean, Acting Executive Director, Investigations, Office of Health Ombudsmen, Queensland, Australia
  • Paul Philip, CEO, Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority, United Kingdom
  • Kolantha Sarogenei, CEO, Lockton Companies (Singapore) Pte Ltd., Singapore

With increasing demands and expectations of regulators in an increasingly complex legal services environment, risks to the public, to the profession and to regulators are greater than ever:  For example, we’ve seen the impact of technology on the provision of and access to legal services; the rise in cybercrime; growth in global legal service providers and multi-disciplinary practices; economic downturns; changes in lawyer demographics including an aging population and rural depopulation; etc.  A competent and relevant regulator must stay abreast and, where possible, ahead of these trends in order to prepare the legal profession for changes impacting it, clients and the public.

Those who regulate lawyers and the legal profession have a shared mandate to protect the public and users of the legal services we regulate. It is essential for effective public protection to understand and manage the risks to achieving that mandate, otherwise we are ourselves at risk of losing our respective roles in the regulation of lawyers. Further, by operating in a risk-focused manner, we are better able to target our limited financial and human resources where they will best protect the public, and enhance the trusted reputation of the regulator.

This session is designed to engage the audience in an interactive discussion facilitated by panelists with experience in various forms of risk assessment and management, and risk-based regulation of lawyers. Through our experiential-based stories, we will highlight the benefits, strengths, opportunities and challenges with this approach to legal services regulation, which can take many different forms.

Through this session, participants will learn about the Nova Scotia experience launching its new Triple P (proactive, principled and proportionate) and risk-focused approach to legal services regulation. You will hear about the successes and challenges faced by the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority as they have led the way in outcomes and risk-focused regulation; you will learn more about the current status of the Appropriate Management Systems approach and risk-based regulation in Australia, within both the legal and medical professional context; and you will hear stories and lessons learned from the perspective of the professional liability insurer for lawyers in Singapore.

To provide more detailed background and resources from these perspectives in advance, each panelist will prepare a paper citing practical and relevant articles, resources and tools. Important take-aways from this session will include: understanding how to identify risks which are impacting and may impact the provision of legal services, and regulation of lawyers/firms/ABS/MDP; how to manage and respond to those risks in a proportionate manner; and how to develop a risk-focused approach to regulation, regardless of the size or complexity of your jurisdiction’s current regulatory framework.

International Conference of Legal Regulators 2017

Singapore | 5-6 October 2017

For the first time, the International Conference of Legal Regulators will be held in Asia, in the thriving metropolis of Singapore.

Abstract graphic for ICLR 2017

Singapore

Panoramic view of the Singapore skyline at dusk from across the bay.
Singapore has a vibrant and diverse legal industry. Law firms and lawyers from all over the world have a base in the city-state, adding to its cultural melting pot. As an international legal services hub, the Singapore experience is one that looks both east and west. As the regulatory environment continues to evolve, Singapore’s many stakeholders are actively involved in ensuring that its frameworks remain robust and relevant to modern legal practice. Perhaps uniquely, the regulation of Singapore’s legal industry is a continual collaborative effort between the courts, the profession and the government.

It is therefore with great pleasure that the Singapore Ministry of Law and the Law Society of Singapore invite members and prospective members of the ICLR to the 6th edition of the Conference in Singapore on 5 and 6 October 2017.  For programme or registration details please visit the Singapore ICLR 2017 website.