I hope you all have had a fulfilling summer (break). Whether you are reading this from the library (probably more likely than not), I hope that you are all getting by. It is my privilege to be able to serve you as the incoming President of the UKSLSS, together with my fellow Executive Committee members- Sherah Tan (VP Secretary), Jia Hao Kwek (VP Treasury), Cumara Kamalacumar (VP Marketing), Vivian Toh (VP Public Relations) and Esther Lim (VP Editorial).
We would also like to thank the previous Executive Committee- Cheryl, Jerrold, Zachary, Wen Ting, Joshua, and Stephanie for their tremendous work the previous year. At the recent Singapore Legal Forum that they organized, we were offered a timely reminder UK law students should continue being competitive in their aspiration to legal practice.
What I admire most about this society is our common thread: getting a legal education in the heart of the common law world. It is worthwhile to note that university education has not always been a prerequisite to legal practice in this country. Sir William Blackstone, in his ubiquitous work, "Commentaries on the Laws of England" talks about a "raw and inexperienced youth" jumping into the deep-end of practice without the entire university experience behind him:
"with no public direction in what course to pursue his inquiries; no private assistance to remove the distresses and difficulties which will always embarrass a beginner. In this situation he is expected to sequester himself from the world, and by a tedious and lonely process, to extract the theory of law from a mass of undigested learning".
Luckily for us, we now have acclaimed Professors designing comprehensive syllabi designed to help us learn the law. Studying law in a foreign jurisdiction means we are constantly making comparisons with Singapore, amplifying both differences and similarities alike. Mandatory EU Law modules, and the UK's strong emphasis on human rights law provide us with additional perspectives. Consequently, we become more creative jurists.
As you would already know, a pressing concern we now face is job prospects in the legal sector back home. As has been reported in the press over the last few months, the supply of law students far exceeds the number of training contracts available. This is the current state of affairs over which we have little control. However, there is no fait accompli. Opportunities still abound.
Moving forward, as the Executive Committee for the academic year 2014/2015, we hope to accomplish the following in our term-of-service:
1. We want to continue promoting the value of the UK Law degree to prospective employers.
Although studying in a different jurisdiction means that we are initially less familiar with Singaporean jurisprudence, the UKSLSS does not view this as a disadvantage. With the advent of the International Commercial Court, Singapore's rise as an arbitration hub, and Singapore's increasing prominence as a financial hub, international exposure should count as an asset rather than a liability.
2. We want to deepen your engagement with the Singapore market.
In this respect, we hope to continue to link-up with employers and ensure UK law students are aware of the latest networking opportunities, internship opportunities and relevant training contract information. You should not be handicapped by a lack of access to information and opportunities.
3. We want to engage you in discourse on Singaporean Law.
As a prospective lawyer in Singapore, it is useful to be cognizant of the latest legal developments in Singapore. Last year, we brought weekly legal updates to your mailboxes. We will continue to do so this year.
The first event on the cards is Professor Walter Woon's visit to several UK cities late this October. I cannot stress the importance of being connected with the Singaporean legal climate and fraternity enough. In the initial stages of planning Apple's new Cupertino campus, then CEO of Apple Steve Jobs wanted only one toilet to be constructed across the sprawling complex. His rationale was that employees from all over Apple would bump into other employees when making visits at the washroom, prompting opportunity for conversation, thereby generating cross-breeding of ideas. It soon became clear that if there were only one toilet, employees would become vigilantes (like a dog running from lamppost to lamppost in an open park) and/or wear diapers to work. But its existence underlies the importance of not merely networking, but by how conversation can prompt new ideas. Hence, I encourage all members to try to make it for one of his events. The London event, which the UKSLSS is co-organising, is also serving a Singaporean dinner- this will be a great time to catch up with other Singaporean law students in the most Singaporean way possible.
I wish you all the best in your endeavours for the coming academic year ahead.
Weng Keong Kok
Executive Committee 2014-2015
United Kingdom Singapore Law Students' Society