Two separate career tracks will be created for mid-level legal service officers from next month, to give them greater opportunities for specialisation.
Officers can opt for either the Legal or Judicial track, and will be posted to jobs within each branch to build experience and hone their skills, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday.
To oversee officers’ career development, personnel boards for both branches will be set up under the Legal Service Commission (LSC), which is chaired by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon.
The Judicial Branch comprises district judges and magistrates in the State Courts and Registrars and Justices Law Clerks at the Supreme Court Registry.
Under the Legal Branch will come deputy public prosecutors and state counsel in the Attorney-General’s Chambers, and statutory boards’ and ministries’ legal officers.
There are currently 587 legal service officers, and they account for about 10 per cent of Singapore’s practicing lawyers.
The move to split the Legal Service has been studied from time to time but Singapore had stuck to an integrated model previously as there were too few officers to support separate tracks, said Mr Lee in his speech at a Legal Service dinner at Shangri-La Hotel.
Officers would also have better career paths in an integrated Service.
But it was timely to review this as the Service has grown more than tenfold from 45 officers in 1965; and officers can specialise without conscribing their career prospects.
The scope and complexity of work, in the Government, courts, and Attorney-General’s Chambers have also “grown enormously”, he added.
The scope of work in ministries, for instance, has widened to include drafting new laws and negotiating free trade agreements.
Amid the move towards greater specialisation however, it is critical that the Legal Service operates as an integrated whole, Mr Lee said.
The changes are part of Singapore’s continuing journey to build a first-class Legal Service, he told his audience, which included the Chief Justice, Law Minister K. Shanmugam and Attorney-General Steven Chong.
“But ultimately what matters is the spirit and dedication of the legal service officers,” Mr Lee added.
Junior officers starting out on their careers will still be posted to different departments and across the two branches to develop them in different legal fields and to learn about their interests to help them make an informed judgement on which track to specialise in.
Senior officers (Grade 2 and above) will still be managed by the LSC.