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The Requirements of Getting Called to the Singapore Bar (Part 1)

January 14th, 2011 · 20 Comments

This Article is reproduced in this blog with permission from it’s original writer Lee Shih, and the article itself is extracted from Loyarburok website.

By Lee Shih

Recent changes to the Singapore Bar admission requirements have made it easier for foreign lawyers to get admitted to practice law in Singapore. Here are the requirements Malaysian lawyers need to meet.

This first-part will set out in some detail the process in which a Malaysian lawyer can get admitted to the Singapore Bar. Due to the various rule changes over the years, with different admission standards applying for different years, it will focus mainly on younger lawyers who obtained their law degrees after 1997.

Part 2 will then shift to a different perspective where we get to learn about the personal experience of a LoyarBurokker who recently sat for the Singapore Bar examinations.

Increasingly, Singapore seems to be the port of choice for many Malaysian lawyers to practice in. There are many factors attracting Malaysians over, including higher pay and the opportunity to gain better exposure to higher level work.

In the past, the most common route to work in Singapore was to find a position as a foreign lawyer. This allowed a lawyer to work at Singapore law firms but without the need to be admitted to the Singapore Bar. Strictly speaking, as a foreign lawyer, you could advise only on foreign law but in practice, you largely carried out the same duties as a Singapore qualified lawyer but without the ability to attend Court or to sign off on documents or opinions. Some of the drawbacks of being a foreign lawyer were that in most cases, you would draw a lower pay than a Singapore qualified lawyer and your promotion prospects may also be affected.

While many Malaysians do still go over to Singapore to work as foreign lawyers, there have now been some recent changes to the admission requirements which make it easier to get admitted to the Singapore Bar.


Even before you consider taking the Singapore Bar examinations, you will need to see if you satisfy certain prerequisites, and if you don’t meet these requirements, then you need to plan and see if you can apply for exemptions.

Broadly, to get called to the Singapore Bar, you need to satisfy 3 requirements:

  1. Satisfy the requirements of being a “qualified person” – more on this below.
  2. Complete the Part B Singapore Bar exams. The Part B is similar in some respects to the Bar Vocational Course or Certificate of Legal Practice, in that it focuses on more procedural law.
  3. Complete a 6-month training contract at a Singapore law firm. This is similar to pupillage.

I will explain more on these 3 requirements below and how the most important threshold to cross is that of being a “qualified person.”


(i) Scheduled Universities

You need to have graduated from a certain list of scheduled universities, as a full-time internal candidate with a certain degree class. You can go through this useful checklist to see if you are a “qualified person” by first checking which university you graduated from.

So for instance, for a UK graduate, you would need to have been a full-time internal candidate with at least a Second Lower degree from a list of only 19 recognised universities. For an Australian graduate, you would need to be in the top 70% of your graduating batch from a list of only 10 recognised universities.

Some examples where you would not satisfy the requirements for being a “qualified person”:

  1. You graduated from a twinning programme or a London external law degree; or
  2. You had graduated from any of the local Malaysian universities.

However, you would be able to apply for exemptions from any of the requirements which I will elaborate on further below.

(ii) Permanent Resident

Another requirement is that you will need to be a Permanent Resident or a citizen of Singapore. So a factor you must take into account for being admitted to the Singapore Bar would be whether you are planning on moving down to Singapore to then apply for Permanent Resident status.

(iii) 6 Months of Legal Practice

You need 6 months of either “relevant legal training” or “relevant legal practice” to satisfy this final requirement to be a “qualified person.” So, if you were in active practice in any jurisdiction other than Singapore, this would fall under the definition of “relevant legal practice”.

Chambering/pupillage may also qualify under the definition of “relevant legal training.”

(iv) Part A Bar Examinations

The final requirement to be met is that you would need to pass the Part A Bar examinations. The examinations cover 5 academic Singapore law subjects: Criminal, Evidence, Land, Singapore Legal System & Constitutional, and Company. You can either opt to sit for only the examinations, held once a year in November, or to attend a 3-month course (starting in August) and then sit for the examinations. This year the exam format was open book (i.e. you could bring in all your study material with you into the examination hall) while last year, it was closed book.

The deadline for applying for the Part A Bar Examinations (both for the course + exam or just the exam) is by the end of April of every year.

More information on the Part A Bar Examinations and its syllabus/fees are on the National University of Singapore website.


If you do not satisfy any of the above requirements, you can apply for exemptions. A common exemption is from the requirement of being a full-time internal candidate from a scheduled university. So for instance, an exemption to allow for a twinning programme to be recognised, or an exemption as your university does not fall under one of the scheduled universities.

The present exemption process, from what I have heard from friends, seems to be more flexible in allowing twinning programme candidates as well as non-recognised foreign universities graduates. I know that graduates from local Malaysian universities have a very hard time in getting an exemption and I have not heard of any London external degree law graduates having obtained an exemption as well. All these policies are of course subject to change and are discretionary.

In terms of applying for an exemption from the Permanent Resident requirement, it appears that this exemption is not granted any more or is at least very difficult to obtain. You therefore will likely need to obtain Permanent Resident status in Singapore if you are considering getting admitted to the Singapore Bar. I know of senior practitioners having successfully applied for exemption from the Part A requirement as well. For instance, I had a Malaysian lawyer friend with around 10 years of experience and she was exempted from Part A. But they still needed to become a Permanent Resident of Singapore.

Applicants who are intending to sit for the Part A Bar examinations will put in their exemption applications around the same time in April when applying for the Part A. More information on exemptions can be found on the Singapore Ministry of Law website.


Having now satisfied the prerequisites of being a “qualified person”, you will need to complete the Part B Bar examinations as well as the 6-month training contract.

The Part B Bar examinations are made up of a compulsory 5-month practical law course and exam, which in some respects, is very similar to the English Bar Vocational Course (now renamed to the Bar Professional Training Course) in that it teaches you practical aspects of Singapore law. The subjects covered include subjects such as Civil and Criminal Procedure, Conveyancing Practice, Professional Responsibility, and Family Law. More information on the Part B can be found at the Singapore Board of Legal Education website.

After successfully completing these examinations, you will then need to serve a 6-month training contract, which is akin to pupillage.


You are allowed to apply for complete exemption from the Part B Bar examination as well as the 6-month training contract. To obtain such an exemption, you will need to already be a “qualified person”, and also been practicing in a common law jurisdiction for at least 2 years (and this period could possibly include your 9 months of chambering as well). If you do not fulfil any of the requirements of being a “qualified person”, or you have not achieved the necessary length of practice, you can also try to apply for exemption from such a requirement.


In conclusion, if you are a practitioner in Malaysia, of 2 years experience or more, you can likely be exempted from having to take the Part B Bar examinations as well as be exempted from the 6-month training contract. You will however need to still pass the Part A Bar examinations and in order to qualify to sit for the Part A, you will need to fulfil the other requirements of being a “qualified person.”

Lee Shih was away from the office for 3 weeks sitting for his Part A Bar examinations. Try as he might, he has not been able to clear enough of his work to bring down the fort of papers and documents built up in his absence. He blogs at all the world’s a stage and tweets @iMleesh

Tags: Malaysian Lawyer

20 responses so far ↓

  • 1 How to become a qualified lawyer in Malaysia? // Jan 14, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    [...] The Requirements of Getting Called to the Singapore Bar (Part 1) [...]

  • 2 Chi Cheung // Feb 5, 2011 at 7:44 am

    I came across your blog, and it’s full of good information. I am a Chinese Korean law student. Are you a lawyer?

  • 3 Eddie Law // Feb 6, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hi Chi Cheung,

    Nice to meet you. I was in legal practice but have ceased practice few years ago. I am in legal recruitment business now.

  • 4 Chi Cheung // Feb 6, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Thank you for the response. It is an honor to meet someone in the field. Since you are in legal recruitment, I would like to ask you an advice if you do not mind. I got an offer from the JD course from CUHK in HongKong, and from Oklahoma City University in the US. In order to work in Singapore in the future, which do you think would work better for my goal? My dream is to live in Singapore because I really love there.
    I would really appreciate if you can give me any relevant answer.

  • 5 KC // Feb 22, 2011 at 1:05 am

    This blog looks like pretty resourceful to anyone seeking any legal advice. Thanks for writing up all those articles. I have a question below and not sure that you can help to shine some light on it. Appreciate if you could.

    So the traffic condition these days is petty bad and what makes it worst if when you have some reckless drivers cutting in front of you without any signals or tailgating you really close and keep pressuring you to give way. I would have blogged about them in my blog but just worry about the potential legal issue.

    Is it fine if someone would to write about a bad driver by giving out the car plate number to the public on the internet? What if I have a picture or even a video taken about them? I think a lawyer would be able to answer me but as a ordinary blogger, I think this is something worth to know if anyone would to share.

  • 6 Norizzati // Mar 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Hi Eddy!

    I’ve got an offer from Birmingham UK for LLB for Graduates. The LLB for Graduates is a graduate-entry programme that leads to the award of an Honours law degree (LLB) after two years of academic study rather than the normal three.

    My question is:

    With this certifcate, will I be eligible to practice law in Malaysia without having to seat for chambering. Considering that I am not a fresh students, and I have an internship experience with Corporate Legal for about 8 months. I am double degree holder.

    Appreciate if you can provide me with any references or souces on how to become qualifie lawyer in Malaysia with this certificate.

    Many thanks!

  • 7 Chi Cheung // Mar 18, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    May I can give you some advice to you, Norizzati ’cause I am doing the course in Univeristy of Birmingham.

  • 8 Norizzati // Mar 19, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Hi Chi Cheung!

    You’re currently doing the course in Birmingham? How lucky I am :)

    So what is the process? I am still unclear, will LLB for Graduates cert makes me eligible to practice law in Malaysia?

  • 9 shum // May 24, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    Hi, anyone heard of transfer program from Help University in Malaysia? they offer first year law program then student are able to transfer to a few Singapore recognised Uni in UK from second onwards.
    can this route work for students who do not have very bright A level result and cant directly apply to these U ?

  • 10 DS // Jul 5, 2011 at 4:57 am

    From your experience, how long must a trainee solicitor usually have to have worked in Singapore in order to put in a successful PR application. I understand that in some cases the application need only have worked for 6 months, however, I imagine that for a mere trainee a longer timescale is required.

  • 11 WY // Jul 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Hi, Eddie!

    I just wonder how a Malaysian lawyer could practise as a foreign lawyer in other jurisdictions such as Singapore, China or Hong Kong. I presume that one is required to be a qualified lawyer who is entitled to practise Malaysian law outside Malaysia in order to register as a foreign lawyer. However, technically, Malaysian lawyers are not entitled to practise Malaysian law without a valid practising certificate issued by the Malaysian Bar Council (under the Legal Profession Act). Further, practising certificate would only be issued to an advocate and solicitor who is attached to a Malaysian law firm. Would appreciate it if you could clarify this.

    Thank you very much.

  • 12 gita // Aug 18, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Hi eddy i am an indian lawyer with 20 ys experience behind ,i would like to work as inhouse counsel at malysia/ singapur what is the best way to job?

  • 13 seeni trajah // Oct 13, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Can part time law graduates from Singapore enter and practice in Singapore?

  • 14 Jeffrey Choo // Oct 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Hi Eddie,

    I am practising solicitor in JB. I have a query and hope you can share your view. My question is, what is the stamp duty for a tenancy agreement for a period of 3 months only? Is it calculated on a pro-rata basis or one year basis? Would appreciate your reply. Thank you.

  • 15 Jean // Dec 23, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Hi Eddie,

    I wish to seek exemptions from the Minister for law to allow me to take Part A of the bar exams but understand that it is very difficult for those who hold an external law degree awarded by UOL to be successful. I am now a legal counsel in Singapore and fulfilled all other requirements of ‘qualified persons’ except the ’3-year full-time internal candidate’ requirement and the ‘approved unis’.

    Not sure how do I go about getting myself qualified. I’m willing to do part A, part B and the PTC. I might seek exemptions from the PTC as well since I would have more than 6 mths of working experience.

    Kindly advise.

    Thank you!

  • 16 charlie // Apr 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    what are the chances of an Indian qualified lawyer who wants to practise maritime law in singapore?
    Qualification is from India. Tks

  • 17 Sultan Maqsood Chaudhry // Jul 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I M Lawyer by my profession since 1999,and practicing in District courts as well as High Courts,I M married and 3 kids ,I want to come in Malaysia and join Bar as Lawyer help me in this matter and plz.provide all guidance .Thank you very much.

  • 18 watson // Aug 13, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Hi im a singaporean and i sat for CIE A levels in malaysia, was wondering of the credibility and recognition of a law degree if i had it at Help. Help university in Kuala Lumpur provides a UK law degree transfer programme meaning you complete one or two years of the degree at Help and the rest at the partnering University in the UK. The degree obtained will be of the partner Uni’s LLB Hons….will it be okay to pursue a career in law in singapore?

  • 19 william // Nov 29, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Hi Eddie,

    What if i do my LLB first year in malaysia,then the 2nd & 3rd final year in Cardiff then the 4th BPTC in Cardiff U as well, will it be considered as a 3 years internal graduate?

  • 20 william // Nov 29, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Hi Eddie,

    sorry just found that cardiff is not in the sg bar list, how about liverpool or sheffield?

    Thank you

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