According to a gazette issued by the Law Society of Singapore, lawyers are increasingly displaying poor etiquette, questionable ethical conduct and bad behavior in Singapore’s courtrooms.
President of the Law Society, Senior Counsel Thio Shen Yi, urged lawyers to halt the falling standards of professionalism in the courts and said that there has been “discontent” from judges and judicial staff about the lawyers who appear before them.
Among some of the examples of bad behavior: lawyers using threats of appealing their cases against judges if a decision goes against them, persisting in making their arguments even after the hearing was over, or a lawyer telling a judicial officer the opposite of what his client told him in Mandarin as his client’s statement adversely affected his case.
“Aggregated and anonymised feedback of poor behaviour has been systematically collected by both the State and High Courts, and shared with us,” Mr Thio said in the Society’s Law Gazette. “While it is anecdotal, far from endemic and not a scientific study, it still cannot be ignored or condoned. Not when we have aspirations to be world-class professionals.”
Mr Thio said that the Law Society should confront this challenge head on in order for the benefit of the profession. “Poor behaviour, if not dealt with and if seen to be tolerated, becomes more and more entrenched.”
A study committee has been formed by the Singapore Academy of Law, with the Law Society’s participation, to look into the issue.
Ideas being considered include direct training, creating awareness and remedial measures, to enable having a mechanism in place to intervene before a formal complaint is made. But even when a complaint is made, the existing sanctions could be “more nuanced” to provide for other options like mandatory counselling, said Mr Thio.