SINGAPORE — A lawyer, who broke a rule of the legal profession while supervising two interns when he was not qualified to do so, was suspended for 1.5 years on Monday.
Mr Clarence Lun said he had not read the rule – which states that a supervising lawyer must have had a certificate of practice for at least five years out of the seven years before the start of supervision – before d hire the two interns.
Mr. Lun, who then worked for the Foxwood law firm, had held a practicing certificate for less than three years when he supervised Mr. Lim Teng Jie and Ms. Trinisha Ann Sunil, who began their training contracts on 16 December 2019 and January 2, 2020, respectively.
The suspension imposed by the Tri-Judge Court was longer than the period requested by the Law Society, which argued that Mr. Lun should be punished with a suspension not exceeding one year.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the court will issue detailed written reasons in due course.
Mr. Sarbjit Singh Chopra, who represented the Law Society, argued that Mr. Lun had not taken steps to familiarize himself with the rules.
“It hurts me…to say that. It just seems like he didn’t care,” he said.
Mr. Mark Seah, who represented Mr. Lun, said his client was truly sorry for his mistake and that this was not a case warranting disciplinary action.
During the hearing, Chief Justice Menon noted that prejudice had been caused to Mr. Lim, who had effectively lost six weeks, because the time he had spent working under Mr. Lun had not not counted in his six-month training course.
Chief Justice Menon said harm could also have been caused to the company’s customers because the work was being done by an unqualified person who was not supervised by a qualified person.
“I think the seriousness of the matter was not appreciated by your client at all,” he told Mr Seah.
According to Mr Lun, he realized he was not qualified to be a supervising lawyer on January 6, 2020, when he checked the rules while in Perth waiting for a flight back to Singapore .
Mr. Lim, who was informed on January 14, 2020, then had to find a training contract with another law firm and make arrangements for his admission to the Bar.
Ms. Sunil herself had decided to end her training contract for personal reasons on January 4, 2020 and informed Mr. Lun by telephone on January 5.
During this conversation, Mr. Lun told her that she would have to pay $2,000, or one month’s salary in lieu of notice.