SINGAPORE – Pointing to the online format of the 2020 Bar examinations to account for the 11 cases of cheating that year misses the real point, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said on Tuesday (Aug 23).
“The simple fact is that, as lawyers, we are absolutely bound to conduct ourselves honourably and honestly, regardless of whether we are operating in a real or a virtual environment, and regardless of whether anyone is looking over our shoulder,” he said.
“This is because lawyers are required, first and foremost, to be persons of integrity.”
Chief Justice Menon was addressing more than 150 newly minted lawyers at the first session of this year’s mass call event to admit new lawyers.
More than 460 in total will be called to the Bar over three sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It is the first time after two years of videoconferencing that the annual ceremony was conducted with applicants in attendance at the Supreme Court auditorium, with their families joining remotely.
Referring to the case of the 11 candidates who cheated in the Part B Bar exam in 2020, he said the virtual format may have made it easier for those who were open to cheating.
But there have been other examples of lawyers who were disciplined for the unacceptable way in which they used technology, such as by making contemptuous remarks online or engaging in sexual harassment using electronic devices.
In his speech, Chief Justice Menon reminded the new lawyers that they were expected to be women and men of honour.
Getting called to the Bar means being accorded certain privileges, including the right to appear in court on behalf of another person, but this comes with significant responsibilities, he said.
“This insistence upon the honourability of the legal profession is not only critical to the administration of justice, it is also central to public confidence in the machinery of justice and, ultimately, to the legitimacy of our legal system,” said the Chief Justice.
He also highlighted recent cases of female lawyers being abused or molested by their male colleagues.
They include the case of Samuel Seow who was struck off in May for physically and verbally abusing three female employees, including a lawyer who was also his niece.