Two key bars cited in mid-career law switch

Singapore Management University students in convocation gowns on July 21, 2012. Many mid-career individuals who joined the legal industry say law schools should structure their programmes to accommodate family and financial commitments of older graduate students, if they want to attract more of them.

Several who made the switch to law told The Straits Times that school fees and loss of employment income while studying entailed a huge financial commitment, but they persisted because of their interest in the law.

Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, in a speech earlier this month, suggested having more pathways to the Singapore Bar to draw more mid-career professionals to the legal industry, particularly those from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) backgrounds. He urged local law schools to create more such pathways.

All three law schools here – the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore Management University (SMU) and Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), have graduate programmes. NUS has a three-year LLB programme, while SMU and SUSS offer a Juris Doctor (JD) course each. SMU’s course can be done in two to three years, and SUSS’ in about four to six years.

Professor Simon Chesterman, dean of NUS’ Faculty of Law, said the university plans to launch a new JD degree for people with diverse skills that would be complementary to a career in law.

"We are also reviewing our admission process to see how we can attract those with strong Stem backgrounds to law," he added.

Professor Leslie Chew, dean of SUSS’ School of Law, said the school is trying to attract more computer science graduates, given that crime in the future is more likely to be technology-based.

The JD programme at SMU has also seen a growing number of mid-career applicants across the years, said its director, Associate Professor Maartje de Visser.

According to the Law Society of Singapore, the number of lawyers with less than five years’ experience increased from 1,821 in 2018 to 2,897 last year. However, the number of mid-tier lawyers with five to 15 years’ experience decreased from 1,161 to 1,065 for the same period.Law firms told ST that having lawyers with backgrounds in other […]

From Brooklyn To Silicon Valley, Founder And Berkeley Law Alum Rukayatu Tijani Is Charting Her Own Course

Rukayatu Tijani “Give me my check, put some respect on my check / Or pay me in equity / Watch me reverse out of debt.” — Beyoncé

This week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Rukayatu Tijani , a former Quinn Emanuel associate and recent law firm founder. I first met Tijani a few years ago while serving on the Pipeline to Practice Foundation board.

Last November, Tijani decided to embark on the journey of entrepreneurship and founded Firm for the Culture . In accordance with my New Year’s resolution — of speaking with more attorneys on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of their legal journeys — I was thrilled with the opportunity to cover Tijani’s journey from Brooklyn to the Valley, and from law school to entrepreneurship, for our audience.

Tijani’s passion and purpose are evident to anyone who has met or has been represented by her. And her advice to those who are thinking about Biglaw or hanging their own shingle is both inspiring and instructive. As she recently relayed to Pipeline to Practice : In the projects of Brooklyn, New York, you quickly grow accustomed to choosing your battles. Some battles, frankly, can get you killed — speaking back to the wrong group of folks can set you up to become a target. So you learn to pick your words and actions wisely. This practical wisdom has helped me immensely as an attorney. In the high stakes world of litigation, every interaction with opposing counsel seems like a battle you want to fight to the death. But the most skilled lawyers know when to fight and when to simply fold; they concede some victories to win the ultimate war. I continue to see this strategy at play from the partners I work with; I hope to emulate this tried and true principal as well. Without further ado, here is a (lightly edited and condensed) write-up of our conversation:

Renwei Chung (RC): Congratulations on the founding of your firm, Firm for the Culture, in November 2019. What prompted this move from Quinn Emanuel?

Rukayatu Tijani (RT): […]

The case for solicitor apprenticeships

The University of Law’s national programme director for apprenticeships, Ceri Evans, discusses the benefits of the training contract alternative, ahead of her appearance at LegalEdCon North later this month It takes five years and seven months to become a solicitor via the solicitor apprenticeship route. The solicitor apprenticeship compares favourably to the traditional approach of law degree, Legal Practice Course (LPC) and training contract. However, there are pros and cons to both routes, as Ceri Evans, national programme director, apprenticeships, at The University of Law (ULaw), explains .

The first tranche of apprentice solicitors — apparently, they must always be referred to as apprentice solicitors and never the other way round, as solicitor apprentices, under strict orders from the Solicitors Regulation Authority, because that could potentially mislead the public about their legal prowess — began their training in 2016. They will finish in May 2022. Ceri Evans The first obvious difference between the solicitor apprenticeship and studying towards a degree at a university is the lack or otherwise of a degree. At ULaw their Solicitor Apprenticeship Programme incorporates a degree and all apprentices will complete the necessary ULaw assessments to be awarded an LLB (Hons) in legal practice and skills. Evans believes this is important as, “anyone without a degree in the solicitor job market would stand out, it would look odd”.

Money is another consideration, with university students racking up horrendous debts for fees and living expenses while apprentices earn while they learn. The LPC costs, on average, about £12,000. Apprentices, on the other hand, can start earning straight after A-Levels. The pay varies. ULaw works with 140 firms across England, a mix of high street firms and commercial firms. Evans thinks most apprentices are earning £15,000 upwards but says she doesn’t know exactly because her role only requires her to check firms are paying at least the basic apprentice wage in year one and a basic living wage in year two and onwards.

She also points out that many LPC graduates spend a year as a paralegal or in temporary work before they begin their training contract whereas the apprentice […]

What a Paralegal Does and How to Become One

A job as a paralegal might be ideal for those who appreciate the intricacy of the U.S. legal system and are eager to provide assistance to lawyers. Experts on this profession say it can be a fulfilling occupation for individuals who are detail oriented and enjoy writing.

Reading comprehension and written communication are critical skills to cultivate for success as a paralegal, says Margaret Phillips, an attorney who is director and associate professor of paralegal studies at Daemen College in New York.

"The very best thing to do is to read and write as much as you can," Phillips wrote in an email. "Of course, it is helpful to know legal vocabulary and how the legal system works, but that type of knowledge can be acquired in a paralegal studies program. It is much harder to make up for shortcomings in reading and writing abilities, and those abilities form the foundation for learning and performing legal work."

Thomas E. McClure, director of legal studies and associate professor at Illinois State University , notes that precision is important in the paralegal field, since the occupation is highly technical.

"So, if you’re a broad brush type person, it’s probably not the profession for you, because it’s a lot of detail work, and attention to detail is extremely important," he says.

Paralegals do a significant amount of writing, so someone who is more confident in their public speaking abilities than their writing skills might prefer a different occupation, says McClure, who also chairs the American Bar Association’s commission that approves paralegal programs.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for paralegals and legal assistants in the U.S. was $50,940 in May 2018. The bureau predicts that employment in these types of jobs will increase by 12% between 2018 and 2028, which is significantly higher than the average projected job growth rate of 5% for all U.S. occupations.

Rising demand for paralegals is a longstanding trend, since law firms are now asking paralegals to do work that previously would have been assigned to lawyers, Phillips says.

"Since the recession, law offices have looked to become more competitive […]

Beyond Boundaries celebrates successful first semester, anticipates future growth

Following a successful inaugural semester, the Beyond Boundaries program looks to continue providing students with new interdisciplinary opportunities while smoothing out some unforeseen hiccups.

The program, under the supervision of Program Director Rob Morgan, allowed 34 students to enter Washington University in the fall without a specific academic division for the first time.

Though individual Beyond Boundaries courses stressing interdisciplinary study have existed in the past, the 2019-2020 academic year was the first one to have a cohort of students within a dedicated Beyond Boundaries program. Rather than entering the University in one of its four undergraduate schools, students take special courses that extend across two or more academic divisions. They take part in the program’s seminar while also sampling courses within individual schools before deciding on a school in March of their freshman year.

According to Morgan, the program ran well in its first semester, especially by getting the students involved in courses and activities offered across the University, though he pointed out that there were some growing pains, such as small issues with their app. He is currently in the process of determining what else the Beyond Boundaries team can improve upon for future years.

“I am so pleased with how well it went,” Morgan said. “I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am anyway, about how engaged these students are.”

Freshman Elizabeth Joseph liked the uniqueness of certain aspects of the program, such as classes that brought in lots of guest speakers and others that emphasized design and creativity in different ways.

On the other hand, she found it somewhat difficult to dedicate so much space in her schedule to the courses. She also pointed out a few kinks with the program that arose since students aren’t in a specific academic division, such as not having access to the Plan It program in Arts and Sciences or having to take business school classes with an Arts & Sciences printing budget.

Overall, Joseph said she likes how Beyond Boundaries encourages students to take part in events that are offered across campus, and she plans to continue with the program next year.

“I think that it’s interesting […]

How Would You Retool The Bar Exam?

(Image via Getty) While we lawyers disagree about many things, one thing that all of us, whether lawyers of whatever vintage, law students, law professors, “thinking about law school” peeps, agree on: the nightmare that is the bar exam, that last hurdle to getting licensed (assuming you’ve passed the moral fitness test and whatever other things lurk in the shadows).

The bar exam: destined to freak out the most stoic, stolid, and calm. It strikes terror in the hearts and minds, even the most outwardly self-possessed. The bar exam: purportedly designed to test the minimum competency required to practice. And that’s the rub, what exactly is minimum competency? How to define it, how to test it, how to use it as a tool to determine who gets that license. How to decide what subjects should be tested. How to decide whether the exam should be in one day, two days, or longer. (Perish the thought, although when I took it in dinosaur days, it was a three-day exam.)

More than 30 states, along with D.C. and the U.S.V.I. have adopted the uniform bar exam. California has not. (A nationwide uniform bar exam might make it easier to argue for multijurisdictional practice, which would be something I would like to see along with many others.)

Although the bar exam is not a marathon, it feels like one. Everyone who finishes it is exhausted and broke. Is the juice worth the squeeze? That depends on who is asked.

Is the bar exam I took all those years ago obsolete? Yes and no. This is not a trick question. There’s much intellectual wrestling going on among law professors, bar administrators, and others interested in the quality of new admittees.

What should the bar exam look like? What should it test? Should it test what some call “rote memorization,” the reciting of legal principles? I think that memorization has its place because I don’t think you can analyze an issue without knowing what the law is to apply to the fact pattern in the question. However, I don’t think the bar exam needs to test whether we can […]

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