Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Not a good day to be part of the JD programme.

I had to stop studying to write this article because my class was greeted with shock one day to find out that one of our classmates has been given a two month jail sentence for hacking into a Professor's account and deleting our property law examination scripts.

My script was one of those deleted. You can reference the newspaper article here.

As we speak, journalists are trying to contact my classmates to ask about this JD programme and I wanted to steal a march from the mainstream media to write an article clarifying some aspects of the JD experience.

Me and my classmates are TWICE victims. One is that our scripts were deleted. The other is that our investment into JD programme is now under media scrutiny.

( Not to mention that NUS might be laughing all the way to the bank )

a) Is the JD programme a pressure cooker ?

Yes. Like all good things in life, you pay an Iron Price to be here.

What was missing in the newspaper article is that qualifying for a Law degree is not enough for you to practice law in Singapore. You need to meet a minimum grade of 3.0 GPA. Georgy barely made that cut and it was that my speculation is that the fear that he would not be allowed to practice which led to him to execute that dumb move of deleting all our scripts.

This minimum grade is not easy to attain as it is an average B grade which is the equivalent of 70% and in spite of the general competitiveness of the program, some fail to qualify to take the bar exams.

Many of my fellow classmates have paid $70,000 of the program so you can imagine the expensive consequences of not doing well in school. This does not account for the 3 years of lost income and opportunity costs.

Furthermore, unlike most LLB guys, we have to complete the law core modules in 3 years so we do not have the luxury of making too many mistakes with our time management in school.

Another difference with NUS is that our seminar performance is graded. We have to interact with our lecturers by being prepared. There is no time to go through the basics and we have to delve into the case holding to survive the discussion. I might argue that no teaching takes place because we have to be fully acquainted with the basics even before class begins. When my son was born, I missed only two lectures and was back in class the next day because it would have hurt my grades.

We also do 50 hours of community service on top of  a compressed program. Most of us exceed that quota. When my daughter was hospitalized with acute bronchitis, I carried on my duties in Family Court. When the supervisor asked me why I even bothered to show up, I replied that SMU's reputation was at stake and we've been planning for the President's visit for a while so I had to make that choice.

b) The JD selection process.

Social media has started attacking the JD selection process. I challenge social media to improve it.

I doubt the selection process can be challenged, beyond an application which scrutinizes our grades. Shortlisted candidates have to write an essay. After which we have an interview where two interviewees interview at the same time so it's conducted like a duel. I even heard a very credible story of an interview candidate crying after being hammered in that round.

Some of my amazing classmates are into their fourth degrees, there is even a schoolmate who lectures in SMU at the same time. Some rejected seats at Oxbridge to be here.

If there is any criticism, I would only consider that JD candidates should requires 2 years of working experience because its designed to complement LLBs rather than compete with them. ( My classmates are likely to disagree with this point.)

( After some sleuthing, my classmates confirmed that Georgy himself graduated from Columbia with an LLM in 2011 so there is an Ivy League connection to all this. Link )

c) Foreigners in the JD program

Xenophobes are attacking SMU's openness to foreign students because Georgy is Russian. That is very unfair to my foreign classmates who work hard and bring a lot of civil law perspectives into the class.

More importantly, foreign students are important because they bring different values to an academic program. From what I experience in all the degree programmes I was in, Singaporeans dial up the competitive factor by being unreasonably kiasu. My foreign pals are a welcome addition because they see their role in a different light and don't see their journey as one with better GPAs and starting salaries.

Only small fraction of JD students are foreigners, I suggest xenophobes go apply pressure to other parts of Singapore like Changalore. The JD programme is a far cry from the liberal introduction of foreign engineers into the Singapore economy which has kept salaries down for over a decade.

d) Some minor IT points.

We are slowing figuring out what Georgy did to hack into the system, I was curious as to whether he employed a VPN to cover his tracks, if so, I would like to know how he was caught.. We are thankful that he deleted the scripts rather than making changes to the scripts because he may have been able to escape undetected.

The typical remedy to this incident like this is to adjust the security policy to prevent the USB ports from being used for all schoool PCs. I cannot imagine how much this would inconvenience the staff in SMU. I even imagine an OTP system for lecturers found in University tender in the medium term.

Anyway, I welcome any JD student or alumni to supplement this article. If you are NUS and want to revel in schadenfreude, you are also welcome to post because some of the negative feedback on JD graduates have also been very illuminating.


  1. Passing IPPT with the minimum pass wasn't enough to exempt from RT. Oh yeah, that was quite pressurising. Oh well, they couldn't delete the station scores, cause the PTI wrote them in their little black book. Oh wait, now we see the e-exam proponents suffer another setback in the quest to go to paperless scripts.

  2. I would have thought the sentence meted out wasnt harsh enough. People do silly things in the spur of the moment. Am very surprised he spent the effort to source for a keystroke logger at Sim Lim. That the device exists on the market is a worrying fact.

  3. Among the victims in my class, I sense that given that we did study with Georgy for one semester, we would have preferred no jail term for him.

    But I am with you.

    He could have amended my script and really ruined my life !