Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah outside the Family Justice Courts on Feb 16, 2016. (Photo: Chan Luo Er)

The UniSIM Law School (USL), Singapore’s third law school, will focus on mid-career professionals such as paralegals, law enforcement officers and social workers who are looking to make the switch to practising family and criminal law. It will take in its first batch of 50 to 60 students, of which 80 per cent would be mature students, from Jan 2017.

This was announced by Senior Minister of State for Law, Ms Indranee Rajah at a press conference held jointly by the Law Ministry and UniSIM on Tuesday (Feb 16). Ms Indranee chairs the Steering Committee for the Establishment of the UniSIM Law School, which was set up in 2013.

USL’s curriculum will be credit-based and modular to cater to mature and working students. The school will be practice-oriented: Students will have to finish a compulsory six-month practicum which will involve hands-on exposure in dealing with clients and assisting with research and drafting legal arguments and taking briefs before they graduate.

Speaking at the press conference, Ms Indranee noted that there is a shortage of practitioners in the fields of family and criminal law. There are about 1,000 lawyers in these fields, of which close to 170 are over the age of 65. Ms Indranee added that an average of 30 lawyers will be retiring yearly over the next decade. In its report, the committee stated that it took note of the current industry situation - where there is an increased number of law graduates in the market, a large number of whom are from overseas universities, but these fresh graduates have generally not chosen to enter family and criminal law and that those who do choose to enter these practice areas leave due to the high stress and emotional demands.

With that in mind, the new law school will target mature individuals with life and work experience, where students are selected not just based on academic ability but also their aptitude, attitude and interest in the practice of family and criminal law.