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The Singapore Law Gazette

Are We More Than Lawyers?

The birth of this column in April 2002 was intended to introduce lawyers and former lawyers who had delved into other areas outside of law. With the passage of time, I then explored the issues relating to the life of lawyers.

Twenty-two years later, I have entered into the 28th year of my law practice. There was no meticulous planning as to how I got to this stage.

For readers of this column, you will recall that I kept talking about passion being the centre of life. Finding the passion of practising family law in a holistic manner 24 years ago and continuing to love it is the secret of my professional sustainability.

During the last few months, many of you have reached out to me to ask why they have not seen new articles in my column recently. Some have said that they have been reading my column since their law school days! This, besides making me feel senior (or a boomer as Gen Z will say) also makes me happy that they resonate with this column.

I do not need to say that keeping a column going for such a long period of time is not easy. The break over the last couple of years was good. It allowed me to mature as an individual (seniors needs growing up too!), acquire new life experiences, hang out with many millennials and learn about what life means to them and to grow as a business owner.

I have written much about millennials in this column. A millennial friend refers to me as a “honorary millennial.” My never ending curiosity extends to them. I have always wondered why are they so different. Why do they think professional growth equates to changing jobs once every one to two years? Why are they so confident? Why are they so daring when they are still wet behind their ears?

I did not really understand what made them tick until I started learning about their values, how they see life, career and their dreams. I even learnt about the power and importance of branding, building up myself as a business owner and the importance of social media in professional marketing from them.

I am also amused by millennial friends in their 30s who refer to themselves as old and “uncles” and “aunties”. Why do they feel old? Do they feel that life is going by fast and they have a lot to catch up on and achieve?

Many of the young people who are featured in the various media platforms nowadays were lawyers in their previous life. In the months to come, you will be reading about their life stories in this column.

I have interviewed many former lawyers in this column, starting with movie maker Kelvin Tong to illuminaries such as Walter Woon and former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew. I have learnt how each one of them approached life, relentlessly pursued what was important to them and lived and continue to live life according to their principles and without compromises.

The privilege of not only being in their space but seeing their influence has affected and changed me somewhat – consciously and sometimes quietly. Recently, I was in touch with one of my former interviewees, Dany Leong who with his wife Avalyn and their family has emigrated to New Zealand and are continuing to live the life they described in their interview back in early 2003. When I thanked Dany for being that positive influence in the younger me at that time, he reciprocated that he too had been similarly impacted.

And that is what life is about – learning from each other and becoming better versions of ourselves. I have discovered life outside of my comfort zone. Sometimes, we only see what we can see within us and around us. This can be a narrow perspective of life. Changing our lenses also changes our perspectives.

During the last few years, my other teachers have been my 21-year-old niece and 15-year-old nephew.

There is so much we can learn from children – seeing things through their way of viewing and approaching the world, their boldness in speaking what they feel and want and not forgetting learning (or re-learning) a whole set of Gen Z vocabulary. I still find myself googling new words to discover what they are saying in their Whatsapp messages!

We are being bombarded by so many changes in our professional and personal life – increasing our social and political awareness, being digital nomads, work-life integration, giving parenthood including fatherhood the position it deserves in society, the enhanced role of women in the professional world and not forgetting the men as well, harnessing social media positively, artificial intelligence, playing many other roles in addition to lawyering – parenting, caregiving and making life choices such as singlehood. This column will examine many of these issues.

If you know of any lawyers or former lawyers who are living extraordinary lives, do Direct Message me at LinkedIn. Do look up my column at Alter Ego to read about the stories of the many men and women who have been interviewed previously for this column. If you wish to know what they are doing today, do let me know for a follow up story.

This column is about us, not as lawyers only but as human beings as we navigate the complexities of life. It is a platform to share, to learn, to inspire and be inspired and to be who we want to be in our lives and in our professions.

Read on!

Rajan Chettiar LLC
E-mail: [email protected]