What is a Lawyer?

A lawyer is a person learned in the law. He could work as an attorney, counsel or solicitor, or as a person licensed to practice law.

Working as a lawyer involves the practical application of abstract legal theories and knowledge to solve specific individualized problems, or to advance the interests of those who pay them to perform legal services.

The education of a lawyer varies greatly from country to country. In some countries, law is taught by a faculty of law, which is a department of a university's general undergraduate college. Law students in those countries pursue a Master or Bachelor of Laws degree.

In some other countries, it is common or even required for students to earn another bachelor's degree at the same time. Nor is the LL.B the sole obstacle. It is often followed by a series of advanced examinations, apprenticeships, and additional coursework at special government institutes.

In the United States, law is primarily taught at law schools. In the United States and countries following the American model, law schools are graduate/professional schools where a bachelor's degree is a prerequisite for admission.

The methods and quality of legal education vary widely. Some countries require extensive clinical training in the form of apprenticeships or special clinical courses. Others do not. A few countries prefer to teach through assigned readings of judicial opinions (the casebook method) followed by intense in-class cross-examination by the professor (the Socratic method).

Some countries, particularly industrialized ones, have a traditional preference for full-time law programs. In developing countries, students often work full- or part-time to pay the tuition and fees of their part-time law programs.

The role of the lawyer varies significantly across legal jurisdictions. In most countries, particularly civil law countries, there has been a tradition of giving many legal tasks to a variety of civil law notaries, clerks, and scriveners.

These countries do not have "lawyers" in the American sense, insofar as that term refers to a single type of general-purpose legal services provider. Rather, their legal professions consist of a large number of different kinds of law-trained persons, known as jurists, of which only some are advocates who are licensed to practice in the courts.

It is difficult to formulate accurate generalizations that cover all the countries with multiple legal professions, because each country has traditionally had its own peculiar method of dividing up legal work among all its different types of legal professionals.

England, the mother of the common law jurisdictions, emerged from the Dark Ages with similar complexity in its legal professions. But by the 19th century, it had evolved into a single dichotomy between barristers and solicitors.

Because of the increasing workload, foreign lawyers are allowed to work in Singapore. In fact, there is a growing contingent of foreign lawyers who are setting up shop in Singapore. According to the Attorney- General's Chambers (AGC), their numbers have nearly doubled to 900 in the last five years.

They are drawn to the rising demand for legal services, such as advice on mergers, help with business expansions and the arbitration of cross-border trade disputes.

However, foreign lawyers are not allowed to appear in court yet. They also cannot practise Singapore law except in the area of arbitration, which is an out-of-court arrangement. But this could soon change. Recently, the Law Ministry announced that up to five foreign firms would soon be allowed to practise in areas such as banking, corporate finance and maritime law.