27 Sep 2015
Singapore’s first law degree programmes with a focus on training criminal and family lawyers have met with strong interest. Close to 400 applicants applied for a total of 60 places in the first intake of the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) and Juris Doctor (J.D.) programmes. The two law programmes, which will start in January 2017, are offered by SIM University’s (UniSIM) School of Law, Singapore’s third law school and the only one to specialise in criminal and family law.
Of the 60 successful applicants, 33 have been offered places for the JD programme, meant for students who already have a Bachelor’s degree in other disciplines. Another 27 have been offered places for the undergraduate LLB programme, meant for students with ‘A’ Level or Diploma qualifications. The majority of them are mature applicants with an average working experience of 11 years. Paralegals, law enforcement officers, court employees, teachers and social workers are among the successful applicants. With their related experience, these applicants have a stronger inclination towards criminal law and family law. It is the objective of the UniSIM School of Law to train lawyers to plug the industry gap in these areas.
As part of the rigorous selection process, applicants had to meet the basic academic requirements and take the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT), a UK admissions test to assess skills required for law such as English proficiency and reasoning skills. All applicants (other than fresh school leavers with 'A' Level or Diploma qualifications) were also required to provide a full CV detailing their work experience. To better assess their commitment to the practice of criminal and family law, all applicants were put before an interview panel of four members: a UniSIM School of Law academic, a criminal lawyer, a family lawyer and a community representative. A total of 62 lawyers and community representatives formed the panels which conducted these interviews. The panels of interviewers included community leaders such as Halimah Yacob, Speaker, Parliament of Singapore; Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee, former Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs; Vincent Hoong, Registrar, Supreme Court; Jennifer Marie, Deputy Presiding Judge and Registrar, State Courts; and Richard Magnus, former Chief Judge of the State Courts and a Member of the Public Service Commission. The lawyers on the interview panels included senior members of the profession in the relevant fields of criminal and family law as well as several Senior Counsel (SC), one of whom was Thio Shen Yi, SC, President of the Law Society.
Working with Industry
With its emphasis on applied learning, UniSIM School of Law is collaborating with relevant private and public sector agencies to deliver real world curriculum. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) under which SAL will conduct the IT‐briefing component of the Legal Writing and IT Essentials course. There are plans in the future for UniSIM and SAL to jointly develop and launch professional development programmes for the legal industry as well as undertake applied research to ascertain the learning needs of various segments of the legal industry. Discussions with other organisations such as the Health Sciences Authority, the Home Team Academy and the Home Team School of Criminal Investigation on collaborations are ongoing.
“We are heartened and impressed by both the strong demand and quality of applicants. Many of the applicants have compelling real‐life experiences that persuaded the interviewers that they are serious about becoming criminal law practitioners and family lawyers. They are the kind of students with exactly the right background and disposition that we are looking for to meet the increasing social need for such lawyers in Singapore,” said Professor Leslie Chew, SC, Dean, UniSIM School of Law.
MinLaw‐UniSIM Study Award
The Ministry of Law will be making available study awards to assist Singapore citizens who are ineligible for the MOE Tuition Grant as they have previously attained an undergraduate or higher qualification through Government subsidy or sponsorship. Successful study award recipients will each be given $15,000 per year. For details of the study awards, please refer to the Ministry of Law news release on 26 September 2016.