Retool, refashion, reimagine, redesign, remake, remodel are just some buzzwords we use to label a Change. I have always thought of Change as a polarising topic. There are personalities who continually mourn the passing of a bygone era and lament the loss of yesteryears. Then there are those born with wanderlust, never satisfied with what is before them, but always itching for a change. History documents Change (or revolution) as the by-product of the polarisation of the haves and have-nots. Of course there are some of us who are somewhere in between the two extremes. But when I Googled “polarising topics”, up comes abortion, gun laws and even “Is it better to take a shower in the morning or in the evening?”, while Googling “Change” brings up articles after articles cajoling the reader to view Change more positively and dispensing well-meaning advice on how best to cope with Change. At first blush, it would appear that Change is so instinctively terrifying and evokes so much negative emotion that the overwhelming majority agrees that we need a shrink to advise us on how to cope with it.
When I research into legal publications on the topic of change, I find articles accusing lawyers everywhere of being unreceptive to Change to meet clients’ demands for alternative fee arrangements and novel ways of obtaining legal services, to adopt legal technology and to innovate and transform. Adjectives like “conservative”, “risk adverse” and “fixed mindsets” pepper these articles.
I beg to differ. While there are always some at one end of the spectrum testifying the veracity of Newton’s law of inertia, I do think the majority of lawyers thrive on change. Perhaps it is just a matter of perspective. Try thinking of it this way – a new dining concept, a new mega mall, a new movie always draws crowds. Could it be an innate desire of the human nature to crave something new, such desire possibly latent for the moment but waiting to be ignited? Also, lawyers are usually the first clients go to when faced with regulatory changes, plans to enter a new market or a proposed change of their corporate structure. Our professional training makes us more than adept in dealing with Change.
As Secretariat faces a slew of changes – a new office at Maxwell Chambers Suites come August, outsourcing more backend operations to save costs and improve efficiency and productivity, administering the new Unclaimed Monies Fund, working with new Council Members after the annual elections – I urge my team to respond positively to these changes with the enduring determination of the human spirit. As our members carve out a niche for themselves in the midst of an industry that is undergoing fast-paced and multi-faceted changes, I similarly have no doubts that most of us will be embracing and even celebrating many of these changes – the entry of female Singapore lawyers to global leadership teams of foreign law practices, the bubbling enthusiasm of the millennial workforce and the technological advancement that frees lawyers from dealing with administrative hassle so that they can focus on lawyering. BigLaw is now getting onto the bandwagon and responding to NewLaw-competition by making client-centric changes to their business models.
Don’t let anyone kid you into believing that Change is not in the DNA of lawyers; that somehow Change is antithetical to the personality that draws one to be a lawyer. Certainly look before you leap, test the waters before taking the plunge, go at a Goldilocks pace, but don’t let fear, myths or naysayers hold you back. Keep flexing those sets of muscles that adapt us to Change. I have every confidence in our members. So should you.