A future lawyer tries to use his initiative. How it might have looked.
A judge in Singapore has rebuked a group of prospective lawyers who cheated in their Bar exams, including in a paper on ethics and professional responsibility.
The Singapore Institute of Legal Education launched an investigation and found that six graduates cheated in the 2020 Bar exam.
Five of them had shared answers to several exam papers with their fellow students at the time, via WhatsApp messages. The group admitted their wrongdoing as soon as the investigation was underway, and were required to retake the papers they had cheated in.
A sixth graduate initially denied cheating, and argued that her answers were similar to another student because they studied together and shared notes. However, the investigation revealed that their answers were not just similar, but had the same pattern and errors. The red-faced graduate finally fessed up, and was made to resit an entire course.
The issue was raised at a hearing to determine applications to the Singapore Bar. The Attorney General stated that the six wannabe lawyers who had been caught cheating, lacked honesty and integrity, and objected to their application to be admitted, at this time.
Justice Choo Han Teck, who presided over the court hearing, commented that "something is wrong" when so many applicants cheat in so many papers, including one for ‘ethics and professional responsibility’.
“Dishonesty and lack of probity" were not the "only vices in question," said the judge, as cheating also "reveals a lack of diligence, and a propensity to take shortcuts - neither of which are sound professional qualities”.
The judge said the legal profession values honesty "among the highest virtues, and it is best to avoid stumbling on account of a lack of it from the outset. That is to say, even lawyers in the embryonic stage - law students - must be trustworthy."
Justice Choo questioned if "the mode of present-day examinations made it more conducive for cheating?" And queried if there is "a culture of cheating brewing in the earlier stages of an applicant’s education?"
Having blasted the yoof of today for their dishonesty, the judge turned to the subject of repentance. He said the court was "loathe to shut the door on a wrongdoer with no prospects of redemption," as there was a duty on judges to "prevent a repeat of the wrong, and to do so without breaking young backs in the process.”
"In a profession in which every member must be like Caesar's wife - beyond reproach - dishonesty is a big problem. But it would also be harsh to have one's professional career ended before it has even begun," said the judge.
So, rather than shut the door to the legal profession to the cheaters, Justice Choo agreed with the Attorney General's recommendation to postpone the applications of five of the graduates for six months, with one graduate being delayed for a year.
There is so much sanctimonious chat in Singapore about the quality and integrity of the lawyers here and it's absolute rubbish, and the Singapore legal system is unbelieveably protectionist (e.g. expats cannot practice local law) because they know they would not be able to compete on an equal footing.
And so typical that this has barely been reported in the Singapore press.
Singaporean are smart and extremely hard working but many of their critical thinking is abysmal. That’s why no matter where they go (London, New York or Sydney), the Singaporean rarely go up the top because they just lack the ability to build relationships and end up getting booted out by firms which management isn’t Singaporeans.
@Expat X 2 22 April 22 10:40 Interesting comment, a former colleague of mine said the same thing about Singaporean engineering graduates critical thinking, essentially saying the graduates were very dedicated and book smart, but not very practical.
SingExpatLawyer 22 April 22 09:31; Anon 22 April 22 11:57 Anon 22 April 22 11:57: same goes for Australians and New Zealanders. No decent firm outside Aus or NZ will hire them.
On the bar course there were numbers of overseas students who shared their briefs for things like negotiation skills and also told their friends which one of the witnesses were being tested for cross or examination in chief in advance to help preparations.
Only ever encountered one Singaporean trainee at my firm - intelligent, but socially awkward.
@city: As much as I’m secretly a bit of a protectionist, there’re some well-trained associates from overseas. In order of professional competence, I say Australian > South African > French > New Zealander > Canadian/American. In order of overall hotness, Australian > French > Canadian/American > South African > New Zealander.
City 22 April 22 12:53: spot on. I remember that Herbies had a “hire an Aussie” policy, which involved getting them in at a very junior level for a limited period, putting them on menial tasks such as disclosure, and then sending them packing. I see that the offshore jurisdictions are full of lawyers from Australia and New Zealand, which tells you all you need to know about the quality of the lawyers and those jurisdictions.
The vast majority of Aussie lawyers head over to NY/London for a few years to make coin and come home with a house deposit and a load of great holidays under their belts.
A few stay behind though and I can think of a number who have risen to, or are rising to, the top of their respective parts of the profession.
Your average top tier graduate lawyer in Aus has had to break into a much smaller market than NY/London.
imagine not knowing how to spell youth also pretty sure all the comments are just hard cases who are jealous of Singapore BIG L BOZO 👎👎👎👎👎👎👎
Western lawyers are lazy and dumb. They are just better at pretending to be competent.
Spot on. I’ve made countless Aussie friends at my firm over the years (and dated one briefly) and 90% of them ended up moving back after 2-3 years. My impression is that Australia is arguably the most advanced common law jurisdiction outside of E&W, except that it’s a much smaller market and therefore the lower pay. That said, I wouldn’t say Aussies are bad, in fact, many of them are technically strong and relevant. That’s why partners at US or MC firms love them.
Kiwi lawyers typically spend 1-2 years in Australia first before moving to London. While they’re nice people, I do feel that Kiwi are generally not as well trained because the average high-end deals they do in New Zealand is like our average small cap deals handled by high street firms.
Indian lawyers (from India) are quite good too but the cultural difference and spoken language make it harder for them to succeed in London (personal view only).
@alan 23 April 22 05:32: Aussie lawyers tend to be technically far below lawyers trained in England. That is why partners at US and MC firms do not rate Aussie lawyers which, in turn, explains why very few Aussie lawyers ever get ahead in the English legal profession.
I disagree with the baseless and somewhat absurd “poppycock” about Singaporeans. I went to Oxford and am now working at an elite US firm in London earning a good salary. I speak and write better English than many of you and bill more hours than my colleagues. How am I manky and not as qualified as the westerners?
Also, “critical thinking” is an abstract concept and it’s ludicrous to assert all Singaporean lawyers lack critical thinking - have you done proper statistical research to form such a conclusion? Besides, many westerners spend excessively amount of time on office chattery and do too little to improve on their ability to provide quality advice.
Lawyer from Singapore 23 April 22 13:31: from your comment, you do not write English to a high standard and certainly not to the quality of a native English speaker. In fact, you write like many Singaporeans I know. Your prose is marred by a breathless, stilted and anachronistic style, and you are careless with grammar.
Aussie lawyer ls are garbage 🤣😅
Worked with lots over the years. They tend to be cheap and last 2 years max.
It's very unintelligent to criticise the critical thinking skills of the pre bar graduates of an entire country. Also jingoist / racist. If you had any critical thinking skills yourselves, you'd see that levels will inevitably vary across groups of students in Singapore as they unquestionably do elsewhere.
@Lawyer from Singapore 13:31
Unfortunately you appear to epitomise the stereotypes described before your comment.
Wow, some shocking bluster and bravado from the UK fraternity here about lawyers from other jurisdictions in this comments section....
anon 25 April 22 05:51: the comments by the U.K. legal fraternity are spot on.
So much nostalgia for the good old colonial times. Perhaps if you keep telling yourselves that you are better lawyers than the rest of the world, you might feel better about your dwindling significance in the modern world.
The absurd entitlement of UK lawyers, many of whom have got their jobs through brown-nosing Daddy's tennis friends, passing judgement in derrogatory terms on the technical qualities and idioms of lawyers from entire nations is a sobering reminder of how even today layers create an exclusive culture of self regarding assumed excellence - actually snobbery - to exclude those who do not quite fit in.
Act like professionals in a globalised world, not like some 1970s little Britain caricatures.
The absurd entitlement of non-UK lawyers, many of whom have got their jobs through brown-nosing Daddy's tennis friends, passing judgement in derrogatory terms on the technical qualities and idioms of lawyers from entire nations is a sobering reminder of how even today layers create an exclusive culture of self regarding assumed excellence - actually snobbery - to exclude those who do not quite fit in.
Act like professionals in a globalised world, not like some 1970s colonial caricatures.
Anonymous 25 April 22 15:30: English-qualified lawyers, and the English courts and judiciary, set the benchmark for excellence for the rest of the common law world. That is why former colonies, such as Singapore, seek to emulate the traditions, structures and standards of the English legal profession and court system.
Have to laugh at lawyers from a place that allows PgDL “graduates” into training contracts mocking those from other jurisdictions. Lots of these morons barely understand contract law and think legal research is skimming a PLC article.
English is the official language of Singapore. Stop being so benighted and yobbish, my friend. In all seriousness, my English and analytical skills are likely to be a notch above yours, having read law at Oxbridge.Your comments, with all due respect, were iniquitous and completely devoid of proper logic, overmasked by your apparent hatred towards high achieving Singaporeans in the legal industry.
‘But it would also be harsh to have one's professional career ended before it has even begun’
Flowery prose aside, it’s a more enlightened view than the SRA would take.
Judge rescind the redaction order this week. It seems like 5 of them are graduates of UK unis and apparently are being retained by their respective firms which include UK law firms (with SG presence)
Anonymous 25 April 22 15:30 Anonymous 25 April 22 15:30
Leave these posters to their views...the world is passing them by and they don't even know it. Let them carry on thinking Britain is a major player in the world, rather than the cold, bankrupt rock in the North Atlantic that it is.
Can’t speak for other area of law, but English solicitors in litigation departments are almost universally rubbish. It’s the B team, if not the C team, with all decent English lawyers being at the bar. The Kiwi and Australian litigators in law firms are, in my experience, significantly better “black letter” lawyers. I say this as someone in a top-tier US litigation firm in London.
Oz litigators are not the best. They are procedurally fine but unable to plead well and write excessively long letters. Rarely do they know how to properly analyse and mark up technical expert reports.
"English is the official language of Singapore. Stop being so benighted and yobbish, my friend. In all seriousness, my English and analytical skills are likely to be a notch above yours, having read law at Oxbridge.Your comments, with all due respect, were iniquitous and completely devoid of proper logic, overmasked by your apparent hatred towards high achieving Singaporeans in the legal industry."
English is the official but not native language of Singapore. I read law at Magdalen College, Oxford, so I am your match intellectually. However, it would appear that your English is not very good. You write in a breathless and overwrought manner.
Aussie and Kiwi solicitors are almost universally rubbish. That is why they never tend to succeed in the English legal profession.
anon 27 April 22 11:46: Leave these posters to their views...the world is passing them by and they don't even know it. Let them carry on thinking that Singapore, New Zealand and Australia are major players in the world, rather than the backwaters they actually are.
I speak Chinese as my second language (and not very good). What should be my native language then? People like you who have absolutely no clue about the world outside of England are unlikely to succeed in the modern global markets - good luck with your lucrative conveyancing practice in Oxford.
@City 27 April 22 15:31 27 April 22 20:48: whatever language is your native language, it plainly is not English. You continue to write poorly. It is "not very well", rather than "not very good", and the use of a hyphen or dash to connect your last sentence with the preceeding one, is incorrect.
I am actually at an MC firm. I look forward to being opposite you on a matter. Your second rate analytical skills and equally pedestrian facility with the English language will enable me to run rings around you. I would head back to Singapore, if I were you.