Ad Astra: The Appeal of Law

Written by: Beverly Tan (19-E3)

Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)

 

“(JCLP) would provide a diverse understanding of the various practices (of law), as well as the opportunities to independently engage with the panellists with any inquiries one might have”  – Matthew Lim (19-O1)

From 18 to 20 November, I attended the 11th Junior College Law Programme (JCLP), an annual programme organised by the Singapore Academy of Law. The 11th Junior College Law Programme consists of two tracks – a full programme and a partial programme. For students attending the partial programme, they get to attend panels conducted by distinguished law practitioners from various sectors of law and visit the Supreme Court on their final day. Students who attend the full programme will be attached to law firms for about a week, on top of attending the same activities students attending the partial programme go for.

 

2 Days of Conferencing

 

To kick off JCLP, Mr Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, gave a talk on the state of our local legal industry. This talk shed light on how potential technological breakthroughs in artificial intelligence could disrupt the legal industry and the makings of a 21st century lawyer. Before this, I had preconceptions that the legal industry was impregnable to technological advancements because I thought that a lawyer’s skills were not easily replicated by artificial intelligence. However, I was proven wrong as artificial intelligence that can easily draft contracts and gather material that would have taken junior lawyers and paralegals a week to do could be easily completed within an hour. 

 

For the following two days, the speakers shared with us what their line of work entailed and several important insights of being a lawyer. We got to learn more about what different lawyers do (contrary to popular belief, not all lawyers go to court!), from criminal litigation to lesser known channels of dispute resolution like mediation. 

 

The most memorable sharing that most participants would agree on would be about pro bono work, a sharing by the renowned “gangster lawyer” – Josephus Tan. In Lee Wan Xin’s (19-I1) words, Mr Tan’s sharing was “incredibly informative” and “had an incredible depth of emotion that served as a contrast from the much technical talks we heard earlier”. Despite Mr Tan’s casualness (“Eh! Can someone teach me what’s Tik Tok later?”), his sharing was very moving, especially when he talked about his struggles of doing pro bono work and his belief that everyone should have legal representation, regardless of their circumstances. 

 

Supreme Court Visit

 

On the last day of JCLP (for partial programme students), we visited the Supreme Court. At the Supreme Court, we had the opportunity to learn more about Singapore’s legal history and even view a criminal proceeding at the Public/Media Viewing Gallery at the High Court! 

 

Fun fact, did you know that Singaporean judges have stopped using the gavel and wearing wigs in court since the 1990s? 

 

While court proceedings may not be as action packed as an episode of ‘Suits’, it was an unforgettable experience that rounded off my three days of JCLP. Viewing court proceedings (the criminal cases are open to public viewing) is a wonderful hands-on experience for aspiring lawyers to have, dispelling misconceptions about court proceedings brought by pop culture. 

 

Insights

 

JCLP was truly a fruitful learning experience for me. What makes it much different from the typical Career talks conducted in schools is the hands on experience JCLP gives and it allows for interaction with professionals after the event. JCLP had broadened my perspective on how law is being practised in Singapore. Law is more than a rigid, lengthy list of rules and can be used flexibly and innovatively to solve problems, especially in emerging areas like FinTech (financial technology). 

 

So is JCLP worth attending? For students considering to embark on a law degree and eventually practice, I think this is an opportunity you should seize. According to Matthew Lim (19-O1), “(JCLP) would provide a diverse understanding of the various practices (of law), as well as the opportunities to independently engage with the panellists with any inquiries one might have”. 

 

To juniors reading this, try going for the full programme as you would be able to actually intern at a law firm. “It would be more meaningful than attending the partial programme we attended” said Wan Xin. 

 

If you’re interested in attending JCLP, do keep a look out for emails from the EJ Higher Education Department. To quote Matthew, “After all, a future lawyer needs initiative, right?” 

 

Shoutout to Rimes, Wei Ning, Alyssa, Wan Xin, Matthew and Gracia for attending JCLP with me. And special thanks to Wan Xin and Matthew for the interview! 

 

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