MinLaw to better support training, upskilling of in-house lawyers: Shanmugam

UPDATED APR 23, 2024, 11:02 PM

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) will better support in-house counsel in Singapore and play a more central role in their professional development, Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on April 23.

As the economy grows in the region, and the Republic looks to attract businesses, legal professionals here, including in-house counsel, will see more work and play an important role in supporting the economy, he said.

Mr Shanmugam noted that the number of in-house counsel – lawyers who work for companies instead of practising at law firms – has grown over the years.

About 4,800 lawyers are currently working as in-house counsel, compared with about 3,600 in 2015.

The minister was speaking at the Asia-Pacific Legal Congress, a two-day conference that brings together experts from across the region to discuss the latest trends and developments in the legal industry.

The event, which is being held for the second year, is organised by the Singapore Corporate Counsel Association (SCCA) with the support of MinLaw.

In his keynote address, Mr Shanmugam spoke broadly about the efforts that the ministry would be undertaking to better support in-house counsel, against the backdrop of geopolitical challenges affecting business sentiment.

He noted that the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine recently passed, with no end in sight; in the Middle East, there is concern that the conflict between Israel and Hamas may escalate into a broader regional war.

The economic impact on the rest of the world, in terms of commodities, shipping and oil, has been substantial, he said.

He also mentioned tensions between the United States and China, as well as disputes and unresolved issues around the South China Sea, and between China and India at the Himalayan border.

Despite the uncertainty created by these challenges, Mr Shanmugam said that looking at the trends, his view was that the economies in the region will continue to grow, barring serious war or other catastrophic events.

Asia currently receives 50 per cent of global foreign direct investment, contributes 70 per cent of the world’s growth, and the Asia-Pacific accounts for one-third of global gross domestic product, he said.

He also cited factors that will push the region forward, including hard-working populations, resources and relatively high-quality education in many countries.  

In particular, Singapore was always a great place to invest, was seen as a launchpad into the region, and it has emerged even stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic, he said.

Citing a report released in November 2023, he said the net inflow of assets under management in Singapore was more than $430 billion per year in 2021 and 2022, up from about $200 billion to $260 billion before the pandemic.  

The Republic is in a very strong position to continue to be attractive to investors, he said, while acknowledging that there is feedback on rising business costs.

He said the relevant ministries are monitoring this and the Government is focused on making sure that Singapore remains competitive.

As business activities grow, there will be more legal work, he said.

Mr Shanmugam said the ministry is committed to better support in-house counsel, such as looking at strengthening partnerships in the legal tech space to promote innovation and digitalisation of legal activities.

He said MinLaw will recognise the SCCA, which was established in 2002, as the national association to support in-house counsel.

“We will support the SCCA to significantly scale up its capacity, and play a more central role in the professional development of the in-house counsel community as a whole,” he said.

For example, the ministry will support the association to increase its training courses. 

He also noted that SCCA is working closely with the Singapore Academy of Law to co-develop the in-house counsel career track as part of a national legal competency framework.