A future lawyer tries to use his initiative. How it might have looked.
A judge in Singapore has rebuked a group of prospective lawyers who cheated in their Bar exams, including in a paper on ethics and professional responsibility.
The Singapore Institute of Legal Education launched an investigation and found that six graduates cheated in the 2020 Bar exam.
Five of them had shared answers to several exam papers with their fellow students at the time, via WhatsApp messages. The group admitted their wrongdoing as soon as the investigation was underway, and were required to retake the papers they had cheated in.
A sixth graduate initially denied cheating, and argued that her answers were similar to another student because they studied together and shared notes. However, the investigation revealed that their answers were not just similar, but had the same pattern and errors. The red-faced graduate finally fessed up, and was made to resit an entire course.
The issue was raised at a hearing to determine applications to the Singapore Bar. The Attorney General stated that the six wannabe lawyers who had been caught cheating, lacked honesty and integrity, and objected to their application to be admitted, at this time.
Justice Choo Han Teck, who presided over the court hearing, commented that "something is wrong" when so many applicants cheat in so many papers, including one for ‘ethics and professional responsibility’.
“Dishonesty and lack of probity" were not the "only vices in question," said the judge, as cheating also "reveals a lack of diligence, and a propensity to take shortcuts - neither of which are sound professional qualities”.
The judge said the legal profession values honesty "among the highest virtues, and it is best to avoid stumbling on account of a lack of it from the outset. That is to say, even lawyers in the embryonic stage - law students - must be trustworthy."
Justice Choo questioned if "the mode of present-day examinations made it more conducive for cheating?" And queried if there is "a culture of cheating brewing in the earlier stages of an applicant’s education?"
Having blasted the yoof of today for their dishonesty, the judge turned to the subject of repentance. He said the court was "loathe to shut the door on a wrongdoer with no prospects of redemption," as there was a duty on judges to "prevent a repeat of the wrong, and to do so without breaking young backs in the process.”
"In a profession in which every member must be like Caesar's wife - beyond reproach - dishonesty is a big problem. But it would also be harsh to have one's professional career ended before it has even begun," said the judge.
So, rather than shut the door to the legal profession to the cheaters, Justice Choo agreed with the Attorney General's recommendation to postpone the applications of five of the graduates for six months, with one graduate being delayed for a year.