OPENING OF LEGAL YEAR 2008
On 5 January 2008, the legal community gathered to mark the beginning of a new legal year at the annual Opening of Legal Year ceremony in the Supreme Court auditorium. During the ceremony, the Attorney-General and the President of the Law Society renewed their pledges of support, on behalf of the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the practising Bar respectively, for the Judiciary in upholding the rule of law and the administration of justice.
The Attorney-General, Mr Chao Hick Tin, spoke about the increase in demand for legal services due to the world as a whole achieving great strides in economic development in 2007. This had resulted in an increased demand for lawyers by both local and foreign law firms based in Singapore and abroad. The Attorney-General also spoke of the importance of retaining talent in local law firms and the need for the legal profession to accept and adapt to further liberalisation of the legal services sector.
The President of the Law Society, Mr Michael Hwang SC, in turn, gave an outline of the Law Society’s involvement in the new initiatives designed to raise the quality of legal services in Singapore following the Government’s acceptance of Justice V K Rajah’s report on the development of Singapore’s legal sector. Mr Hwang also highlighted some of the Law Society’s initiatives for the year, including the new community legal clinics and the introduction of the Law Society’s own arbitration scheme.
In his Response, Chief Justice Chan Sek Keong began by congratulating Mr Hwang on his election as the President of the Law Society. He also acknowledged the contributions to the Law Society by Mr Philip Jeyaretnam SC, one of the longest-serving and most effective presidents which the Law Society ever had.
Chief Justice Chan then gave an account of the work of the Courts in 2007, and emphasised the importance of achieving a delicate balance between judicial patience and judicious assessment of the use of judicial time in each and every case. To this end, he highlighted several key technological initiatives that would be implemented to enable the Judiciary to keep on top of its work. Key amongst these would be the Application and Case E-Management System (ACES) and the Integrated Electronic Litigation System (i-ELS).
The Chief Justice also focused on the quality of justice and touched on the Judiciary’s caseload in 2007 as compared to previous years. With regard to criminal justice, Chief Justice Chan emphasised the need to strike a balance between, on the one hand, the public interest in maintaining law and order and, on the other hand, the principle that offenders should not be punished beyond what they deserved. To this end, he noted the Sentencing and Bail Review Panel’s progressive work in formulating sentencing guidelines for common offences that were brought before the courts.
Touching on the topic of access to justice, the Chief Justice stated that the introduction of a new scheme of conditional fees should aid in providing greater access to justice. Chief Justice Chan also announced new initiatives such as the “Singapore Law Watch” website set up by the Singapore Academy of Law to enable the public to gain timely access to legal developments.
On the subject of professional ethics, Chief Justice Chan reiterated the need to put in place a workable scheme to protect clients’ moneys. In this regard, he announced that a working committee comprising representatives from all the stakeholders in the real estate industry had been set up to make recommendations to address the problem of dishonest lawyers misappropriating funds placed with them by their clients for property transactions.
The Chief Justice then declared the new legal year open.
MASS CALL 2008
A total of 230 new advocates and solicitors were admitted to the Singapore Bar on 24 May 2008. This increased the number of advocates and solicitors holding practising certificates in Singapore from 3,243 to 3,473. The Mass Call was held at the Victoria Concert Hall, which was gazetted as a courtroom for the day. Judge of Appeal Andrew Phang Boon Leong presided over the proceedings and delivered an address congratulating the newly admitted lawyers and their families.
Justice Phang shared his views on the attributes of a good lawyer which included sound legal skills and knowledge, a sense of history and context, the ability to think as well as analyse conceptually and, most importantly, honesty, integrity and the desire to impact the lives of other people in a positive way. Justice Phang also stressed the need for work-life balance and encouraged law firms to adopt more flexible work hours as well as alternative work locations, where possible. His Honour ended the Mass Call address by wishing the newly admitted advocates and solicitors success in their future endeavours.
Copyright 2009 © Singapore Supreme Court. All Rights Reserved.