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Proposed amendments to the Legal Profession Act
Ministry of LawJan 16, 2012 15:15 SGT
The Legal Profession Act (LPA) provides the legislative basis for the regulation of Singapore’s legal profession.
In December 2011, a consultation draft of the Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill 2012 was put out for public consultation. The Bill contained amendments to:
(a) Widen the scope for ad hoc admission of Queen’s Counsel (and equivalent) from overseas jurisdictions to appear in Singapore Courts;
(b) Implement mandatory Continuing Professional Development requirements for the legal profession; and
(c) Make miscellaneous amendments to address practical, procedural and interpretational issues arising from the current provisions of the LPA.
Summary of the contents of the Bill
The contents of the Bill are summarised below:
(i) Clauses 4 and 15 of the Bill (Ad hoc admission of Queen’s Counsel)
Clause 4 of the Bill makes necessary amendments to section 15 of the LPA to widen the scope for ad hocadmission of Queen’s Counsel (and equivalent) from overseas jurisdictions to appear in Singapore Courts to provide advocacy services in commercial and financial disputes. In cases involving purely domestic areas such as criminal, family, constitutional and administrative law, a higher threshold will be set for admission.
The amendments to section 15 take into account feedback obtained from practitioners on the drafting of the section during the public consultation. In particular, practitioners had suggested that it would be desirable to:
a)Make explicit the factors that the Courts may take into consideration when deciding whether to admit a person under section 15. A new subsection (6A) has accordingly been included to empower the Chief Justice, after consulting the Judges of the Supreme Court, to specify, by notification published in the Gazette, the matters that the court may consider in admitting a person under section 15.
b) Allow for appeals against decisions made under section 15 to be made to the Court of Appeal without the need to apply for leave to do so. (The consultation draft of the Bill had provided that no appeal shall lie from a decision of the court under the section except with the leave of a High Court Judge, and that no appeal shall lie from any refusal or grant of such leave.) To ensure expeditious handling of such appeals, a new clause 15 has been inserted to make a related amendment to the Supreme Court of Judicature Act to allow appeals on decisions made under section 15 to be heard by a Two-Judge Court of Appeal. Currently, such appeals to the Court of Appeal are heard by a Three-Judge Court of Appeal.
(ii) Clauses 2, 5, 8(a) and (b) of the Bill (Mandatory Continuing Professional Development)
In May 2011, the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE) was formally established as an umbrella institution to coordinate, administer and exercise oversight over legal education in Singapore. One of the SILE’s functions is to oversee the implementation of mandatory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements for the legal profession in Singapore (for which SILE had previously sought consultation).
Clauses 2, 5, 8(a) and (b) of the Bill make the necessary amendments to the LPA to give the SILE powers to enforce any failure on the part of the lawyers to comply with these mandatory CPD requirements through the existing disciplinary mechanisms.
(iii) Clause 10 of the Bill (Amendments to help SLPs expand overseas)
With many Singapore Law Practices (SLPs) now expanding overseas, a new amendment has been inserted into the Bill, taking into account feedback received from SLPs and Foreign Law Practices (FLPs) that the current framework is too limiting.
Clause 10 of the Bill contains proposed amendments to permit foreign law practices or firms to hold interests in SLPs (subject to a percentage cap). Currently, only foreign lawyers as individuals are permitted to do so. The amendment will allow SLPs establishing overseas practices more flexibility.
(iv) Miscellaneous amendments
The Bill also includes miscellaneous amendments to address practical, procedural and interpretational issues arising from the current provisions of the LPA. Such amendments include amendments to fine-tune the process for disciplinary proceedings for lawyers under the LPA.
An earlier consultation draft of the Bill had been released for public consultation in December 2011. The Ministry received feedback on various aspects of the amendments from industry stakeholders, including the Law Society, lawyers from both local law firms and foreign law firms, and the arbitration community. The provisions in the final version of the Bill have been fine-tuned taking into consideration the views and comments received.
The Ministry would like to thank all respondents for their feedback. A copy of the final Bill and a summary of the Ministry’s responses to the feedback received from the public consultation can be found below.