Singapore, 7 May 2020 – More than 9,000 members of the Singapore Academy of Law (“SAL”) will benefit from a $1.9 million package to help the legal profession cope with the impact of COVID-19.
In a video address to SAL members, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, who is also President of SAL said, “The Academy is deeply aware of the daunting challenges faced by our members. It is unlikely that we will be able to return to our usual way of doing business for some time.” He added, “It is evident that we are facing a range of challenges, and the Academy wants you to know that we stand in solidarity with you as we face this unprecedented situation together.” (View his address here)
In April, SAL surveyed practitioners and in-house counsel to better understand how different constituencies of the profession have been impacted by the COVID-19 situation. The key findings of the survey, which received close to 400 responses, were:
· 83% of practitioners reported a decrease in new cases and revenue
· 75% of in-house counsel saw an increase in workload, namely in:
o Crisis management
o Re-negotiation of contracts
o Employment issues
· 65% of all respondents called for learning and development opportunities, as well as tools and resources relevant to their work
· 34% of all respondents expressed a need for business process re-engineering to save costs
These findings have guided SAL’s two-pronged approach to assist the profession:
1. To help individuals meet their professional development needs
2. To aid law firms to save costs and streamline their work processes
These measures will help both individuals and law firms prepare for a post-COVID operating environment, which CJ Menon stressed will almost inevitably be more digitised.
Aid for individuals
On 9 May 2020, all eligible SAL members will receive a one-time credit of $150, which can be used to purchase SAL legal publications and learning and development programmes.
Aid for law firms
Existing subscribers of LawNet, Singapore’s most-used legal research portal, will have two months of their basic subscription fees waived. This will be reflected in their June and July invoices.
In addition, up to 40 small law firms can apply for a free business process re-engineering package to streamline their work practices. Dubbed “Lighten-Up!”, the three-month consultancy offered through SAL’s Future Law Innovation Programme aims to help law firms get ready for the post-COVID operating environment. The consultancy fee of $5,000 for each of these packages will be waived.
Informing and educating
These measures will complement existing resources, such as SAL’s dedicated COVID-19 microsite (https://covid.sal.sg/). Launched in April, the site features a news aggregator that tracks COVID-19’s impact on the legal industry, both local and regional. It also curates digital resources aimed at helping the profession adapt to new business practices. These range from guides to lawyering from home to podcasts on innovation and articles on online advocacy.
A united profession
These measures make up the first-ever relief package put forth by the Academy, which serves as an umbrella organisation for Singapore’s legal profession. Said Ms Serene Wee, Chief Executive of SAL, “We have served the profession through other crises before; from the Asian Financial Crisis of the late-1990s to the SARS outbreak of 2003. But never has the legal profession faced such a challenging operating environment. We hope that this package will be of some relief and will allow the profession to emerge stronger and ready for the future.”
Encouraging members to stay united and resilient, CJ Menon said that the legal profession had experienced storms in the past, and emerged each time stronger and more resilient. “This resilience requires us to summon a renewed spirit of service, honour, and solidarity, to look out for each other as we journey through these challenging times together.”