Bar president defends legal profession after ‘wrong’ criticism over exam cheating case

SINGAPORE: Law Society President Adrian Tan has hit out at those who criticized the professional body for turning a blind eye to exam cheating, saying such commentators were “misguided”.

In a message to the Official Gazette on Thursday, April 28, Mr Tan said the case of trainee lawyers who cheated on bar exams showed that “there are commentators who are quick to condemn lawyers, based on the conduct of non-lawyers”.

“They do this without understanding the context of events or waiting for cases to be resolved. They are eager to judge us, practicing lawyers, and invite us to reflect on our own ethics.”

Mr. Tan pointed out that the six people who cheated were not admitted to the bar, which means that they are not members of the Law Society and are not lawyers.

“An important prerequisite for admission (to the bar) is that the Law Society issues a special letter, called a letter of no objection. This letter states that the Law Society does not object to this person’s candidacy for the Bar. The point of such a letter is to say that this candidate is a fit and suitable person to be a barrister and advocate,” he explained.

Addressing commentators who have criticized the Law Society for “somehow turning a blind eye to cheating”, Mr Tan said: “These commentators are misguided. It is because these six people cheated that the Law Society did not agree to admit them as attorneys and barristers.”

He also clarified the role of the Law Society, saying the exams are not set by it nor does it have the power to punish the six people involved because they are not members.

UNFAIR TO TARGETING LAW FIRMS

Those who criticized the law firms that awarded the six candidates training contracts “didn’t understand the sequence of events”, Tan added.

Trainees apply to join law firms “long before” they take their Part B exams and they can complete their training contract even before they pass the papers, he explained.

They also take the exams as individuals, “not under the auspices of a law firm.”

“There is no suggestion that a law firm gave an intern a training contract knowing that the intern would later cheat on the Part B exam. It is unfair to target these law firms “, Mr. Tan wrote.