COLUMNS

 
The Young Lawyer



Amicus Agony

Dear Amicus Agony,
 
I am considering a switch from litigation practice to corporate practice. Is that advisable and is there a “way back” if I feel it is not suitable for me?
 
Confused associate
 
Dear Confused associate,
 
You are not confused at all! I admire you for your courage to move out of the comfort zone, and the thirst and quest for knowledge! I believe that with the right attitude, trying a new area of law is not a problem. For most lawyers who eventually go in-house, it is hardly ever completely related to private practice work. It is the skill sets that can be applied flexibly, i.e. the legal reasoning, the analysis, the problem solving, and the holistic thinking from all angles to cover off risks and potential liability exposures. 
 
On a practical level, do treat it sensitively of course. Speak with your partner, and notify him or her that you are keen to try a different area of practice that you feel might suit you better. Do not give the impression that you are simply jumpy and impatient, but rather that you feel the switch might suit your personality better. That will not close off a road should you wish to return. Most reasonable partners who have had a good working relationship with you are typically supportive and will approach a corporate partner to find if they have a vacancy for you. 
 
Good luck!
 
Amicus Agony
 
Dear Amicus Agony, 
 
I am dismayed by how low lawyering salaries are these days. I have dreamt of driving a Bugatti and living in a good class bungalow but realistically I am applying for public housing in a faraway place with lots of artificial rivers and an island.
 
Rich-in-status-but-poor-in-POSB associate
 
Dear Rich-in-status-but-poor-in-POSB associate,
 
I am sorry to hear that you are dismayed at your pay slip numbers. Realistically, in today’s climate, to drive a Bugatti and live in a good class bungalow will not be derived from lawyering. Even top tier consulting or investment banking with a Wall Street firm does not guarantee that in three decades any more. A start up that goes global is a better bet, or becoming a boxer like Floyd Money Mayweather is a much more secure path to that. 
 
Heeding the numerous calls by both leaders of the profession and policy makers (who drive “smaller” Mercedes and live in “smaller” terraces or roomy condominiums (relative to your dreams)), do temper your expectations. The calling of the legal profession is one of service, and one that of course should pay the bills (of a normal dwelling and a common car loan) too. However, if you really have desires of wealth, you will need to look elsewhere (and I cannot advise on that because I do not drive a Bugatti nor live in a good class bungalow).
 
Remember this – why are top footballers or top sales persons or top boxers paid multi millions? That is because they possess skills BEYOND what their peers possess. So, to be wealthy at a certain level, you need to ask yourself what is your truly unique selling point that will make others part with their monies for you? Do you possess that unique-ness at that level to command that premium? World crowds pay tens of thousands to watch Mayweather box in a ring. How much would you pay to watch a lesser fighter box?
 
Ultimately, I hope you find happiness in your search for purpose and meaning, two things that cannot typically be monetarily quantified. All the very best! 
 
Amicus Agony
 
Dear Amicus Agony, 
 
I just completed my training contract and will be called to the Bar soon. It feels almost surreal that I will soon be joining the ranks of Advocates and Solicitors of the High Court of Singapore. The learning curve in the last six months has been extremely steep and I often feel overwhelmed by all that I do not know. The thought that I will soon graduate from shadowing seniors in client meetings, teleconferences and court hearings to fronting them on my own both excites and scares me. I am worried about whether my youth and inexperience will show in front of clients and the judges, and wonder how long it will take for me to feel like less of an imposter. 
 
Faking it & hoping that I will someday make it
 
Dear faking it & hoping that I will someday make it, 
 
As the saying goes, everyone has to start somewhere. No one becomes a great lawyer overnight. Skills are honed with time, experience, and lots of battle scars. One should learn how to be a good foot soldier before learning how to be a good general. 
 
The confidence of others has to be earned and to earn it you must first build it up within yourself. To do this, you need to know your part as well as play the part. 
 
Knowing your part – as a junior on the file, your primary role is to be familiar with the documents, gather the necessary information, and prepare the first cuts of drafts for partner review. Speak to the partner before scheduled meetings, calls and court hearings to get guidance on the general action plan and direction. Then prepare as much as necessary for you to feel confident about the upcoming meeting, conference or hearing. 
 
Playing the part - knowing your part will be for naught if you do not demonstrate it. While the law puts substance over form, this does not mean that form should be neglected especially where human interaction is involved. Humans are visual and judgmental creatures and like it or not, appearances and impressions do matter. Dress smartly and project a professional image. Speak firmly and project confidence in your tone of voice and body language. Develop a personal style that works for both yourself and others. 
 
Amicus Agony

Young lawyers, the solutions to your problems are now just an e-mail away! If you are having difficulties coping with the pressures of practice, need career advice or would like some perspective on personal matters in the workplace, the Young Lawyers Committee’s Amicus Agony is here for you. E-mail your problems to communications@lawsoc.org.sg.
 
The views expressed in “The Young Lawyer” and the “YLC’s Amicus Agony” column are the personal views and opinions of the author(s) in their individual capacity. They do not reflect the views and opinions of the Law Society of Singapore, the Young Lawyers Committee or the Singapore Law Gazette and are not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way. The views, opinions expressed and information contained do not amount to legal advice and the reader is solely responsible for any action taken in reliance of such view, opinion or information.