Sunday, September 18, 2011

Singapore scrapes the barrel to increase lawyer numbers

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Singapore state controlled newspaper the Straits Times reports on Sept 19, 2011has the story "Number of lawyers in Singapore could hit record 4,000 this year". It talks of Singapore's "record" of trying to increase the number of lawyers in their lawyer starved Stalinist one party state from the thoroughly insufficient 3,000 at present.

A little background to Singapore would keep this report in perspective. It is a one party state island country with a population of 5 million of which only 3 million are native born Singaporeans while the remaining 2 million are mainly comprised of recent Chinese immigrants from Mainland China who almost entirely speak only Chinese while Singapore's main language has always been English or a corrupted version of it called Singlish.

The island's main economic sectors include international banking, commerce, tourism and some manufacturing based on cheap sweatshop labour imported from neighbouring third world impoverished countries.

One would have thought that a country such as this, with 5 million people and with economic sectors such as this would have thousands and thousands of lawyers.

Wrong, as Singapore up till now has been struggling with no more than a miserable 3,000 lawyers mainly because the law in Singapore has been thoroughly discredited both within and outside Singapore, the reason being that Lee Kuan Yew, the Singapore lifetime dictator and his son who rule the island have been using or rather misusing the law as their principle political tool to destroy their opponents.

Naturally this shameful practice of misusing the law as a political weapon would have a negative impact on Singapore's legal profession since being a lawyer there today is looked upon with scorn and shame, as a bunch of disgraceful men and women who would sell their convictions and principles for a few dollars to please the tyrant.

Now it appears, according to the state controlled newspaper's report, the number of lawyers will increase to a "record" of 4,000. A record indeed! This is not a "record" that any country such as Singapore should be proud of.

Even if it were true, as the veracity of these state controlled newspapers are always suspect, not only in Singapore, but also in Cuba and North Korea, it is hardly a sufficient number for a country such as this that relies on banking and international trade, not to mention money laundering, for a living. Remember money launderes too need lawyers.

Cities such as London and New york have several times that number of lawyers, running into hundreds of thousands because quite obviously countries that rely on commerce and international trade require far more lawyers than agricultural third word economies.

In fact even the attempt at increasing the number to 4,000 is both contrived and suspect.

It was, as the state controlled newspaper report hints indirectly, achieved by lowering the standards of admission, since all previous attempts to attract qualified candidates to the profession had failed: "Surge is due to changes to enable more to qualify as well as SMU law grads" "The number of lawyers practicing Singapore law here could hit a record 4,000 late this year as the impact of changes to enable more to qualify kicks in"

In fact the already miniscule low quality of the 3,000 lawyers practicing today would be lowered even more with this addition of even less qualified lawyers.

Let me tell you of one such poorly qualified candidate to Singapore's newest batch of lawyers. I know him personally. Let us call him Mr. X, a Singapore born Pakistani Muslim 63 years old. He was the grandson of one of the carpet dealers of Singapore (since deceased) and spent most his time in small scale business enterprises, all not very successfully.

About 15 years ago he had done a correspondence course in law with an English university and managed to get his correspondence law degree. Knowing him it is very probable that all his essays that he wrote for his degree through correspondence was probably written by someone else who knew the law a little better, if you know what I mean. He never took any exam physically in England and neither has he ever been there at all.

All these years since he got his law degree through mail order, he wasn't able to be a Singapore lawyer since in the past the rules did not permit correspondence degree holders to become Singapore lawyers.

The last I called him, he tells me that he is, finally, going to be a lawyer in Singapore as they have finally accepted his qualifications, in Singapore, at the age of 63! He will be part of the recent increase mentioned by this state controlled newspaper.

I personally would not trust Mr. X with any work on my behalf and I pity that unsuspecting client who would. And if this is the sort of the new "surge" of Singapore lawyers, it really would not matter much if instead of 4,000, you have a 100,000 of them.

The message should be clear to anyone with eyes to see. If you misuse the law, you damage it's reputation which means a lowering of standards.

In any case, anyone who knows the law is being misused and yet willingly joins the profession is surely wanting in many respects. And if he does not know that the law is being misused, he is an ignorant lawyer, which is equally bad.

I reckon this spurious attempt by Singapore to increase the lawyer numbers is in fact going to backfire on this one party father and son dictatorship one way or another, and instead of increasing the numbers it may even reduce it's numbers to even less than the present 3,000.

One, even the lawyers practicing there today might feel uncomfortable with the standards being reduced even further and may decide to leave the profession in even larger numbers. Two, these poorly qualified lawyers themselves may be incapable of withstanding the rigours expected of the profession and may leave the profession anyway.

Gopalan Nair
Attorney at Law
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

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