The Law Society and The College of Law Australia (COL) signed a memorandum of understanding on 19 March to underscore both parties’ commitment to jointly develop and deliver legal education and training programmes to meet the needs of the legal profession in Singapore and to drive thought leadership in legal education policy. This is a historic moment for the Law Society as it marks the first time we are collaborating with a legal education provider. We will be establishing a five-year development plan with COL to future-proof our members by helping them develop a deep expertise not just in specific practice areas but also in market knowledge, use of legal technology and business skills. For a start, we will jointly develop a series of subjects involving ASEAN law and deliver the courses through an e-learning platform for the convenience of our members.
Our CPD department is also hard at work to bring you two major conferences over the next few months. The Litigation Conference Workshop will be held on 19 and 20 April. Presented by our Civil Practice Committee, this biennial two-day workshop is designed to allow practitioners to develop and hone their litigation skills on a practical level. As with the first workshop in 2014, Queen’s Counsel and Senior Counsel, together with senior members of the Singapore Bar, will be the trainers for this Workshop. In addition, this year’s Workshop will be a collaboration with the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple whose Queen’s Counsel will be sharing their wealth of experience in litigation skills. Participants can also look forward to a mock cross-examination by trainers, and the sharing of insights on the handling of expert witnesses.
The inaugural Family Conference on 8 and 9 May is jointly organised by our Family Law Practice Committee, Probate Practice and Succession Planning Committee and the Muslim Law Practice Committee. This two-day conference is uniquely designed with panel and workshop segments relevant to both senior and junior practitioners. The Conference will encompass Family Law practice holistically and delegates will benefit from a breadth of knowledge from experts in their field. Experts and professionals will be speaking on a range of important and developing issues including private wealth, mental capacity, inheritance and succession planning, Islamic estate planning, the AMLA Amendments, adoption and fostering, mental health issues, relocation, child maintenance, ethics in Family Law practice, and practice and procedure in Family Law. There will be plenty of opportunities to interact with distinguished panellists, speakers and delegates, network with other Family Law practitioners and further develop your Family Law practice.
Our Criminal Practice Committee, supported by the Secretariat, successfully organised the inaugural Criminal Bar charity gala dinner on 6 April at Marina Mandarin Hotel in aid of the Yellow Ribbon Fund which provides support for rehabilitative services for ex-offenders as well as support programmes for their family members. The event was attended by more than 300 lawyers and judges and raised more than $470,000. Thank you for your overwhelming generosity!
To keep up the momentum of tech adoption by our member firms and following from the successful first run of the SmartLaw Assist scheme which took place last year, we launched a second round of the scheme on 4 April 2018. Under this scheme, each Singapore law practice (SLP) can apply for a 60% subsidy of the first year subscription fees of one out of three pre-approved online knowledge databases. SLPs will be able to choose amongst the various subscription packages offered by Informa Law, Thomson Reuters and Lexis Nexis. This year’s scheme will provide more product offerings for the mid-sized law firms and more specialised databases covering areas such as medical law, criminal law and Chinese maritime law. The subsidies will be funded by the Education Fund set aside by our professional indemnity insurers Lockton and the maximum amount set aside for this run is S$250,000. The scheme ends on 29 June 2018 and applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Please go to https://www.lawsociety.org.sg/For-Lawyers/Running-Your-Practice/Practice-Support/SmartLaw-Assist or contact [email protected] to apply for the scheme.
More on the tech front, the Law Society will be launching a Legal Technology Survey next month to understand the current landscape and demand for technology adoption among our law firms in Singapore. This survey seeks to assess areas such as the current level of technology adoption and how relevant it has been to the legal practice, challenges faced in adopting new technology, plans to use technology in future as well as the general perception on Government grants and LawSoc subsidy schemes. The target respondents will include senior partners, office/IT managers, as well as other users of technology such as the other lawyers, legal secretaries and paralegals in the law firms. We value your opinions and would greatly appreciate your participation in the survey. Do keep a lookout for the survey e-blast as there will be more than 100 attractive lucky draw prizes to be won!
We have also produced a short video to provide members with a quick overview of the different legal tech solutions available on the market. Please visit http://www.lawsociety.org.sg/For-Lawyers/Running-Your-Practice/Practice-Support/Legal-Technology-Solutions to watch our video.
Last month, the Legal Professional (Amendment) Bill was read in the Parliament. When enacted, the amendments will allow for more nuanced and proportionate disciplinary measures for relatively minor infractions, taking into account the root issues underlying any misconduct to achieve a more rehabilitative, tailored and effective approach. A new Unclaimed Money Fund will also be set up and administered by the Law Society. Lawyers and law practices with unclaimed client monies will have the option of paying this money into the Fund to relieve them of the burden and expenses of maintaining the client account. We will be required to invest or use the monies in the Fund (as specified in the legislation) to fund pro bono services, allowing such unclaimed monies to be put to better use for the under-privileged.
Such legislative amendments have come about as a result of Council’s and our Representation and Law Reform Department’s continuing engagement with the Ministry of Law and other stakeholders in the legislative-making process to ensure that the legislation governing our profession remain nimble and relevant. We have also been deeply engaged in the consultation process of other Bills, such as in the recent round of Criminal Procedure Code amendments. Many of such consultations include face-to-face discussions with the Minister of Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam himself and members were invited to some of such discussions. Minister has also indicated that the Law Society will be consulted on upcoming proposed amendments to the Penal Code and the Misuse of Drugs Act. We look forward to your participation in these consultations.