Over the decades, the Law Society has grown in size and functions in tandem with the increase in our membership. Today, we provide a wide range of services to more than 5,000 members such as helping them keep current with their legal knowledge, acquire practice management skills and bring their practice overseas. We are also committed to advance the cause of justice and the rule of law. With this expansion of size and function, Council and Secretariat felt that it was prudent to invest the Society’s surpluses in additional premises to cater for medium to long term growth. Such property purchase would also help to diversify the Society’s investments.
At the Annual General Meeting last year, we obtained a mandate to purchase additional premises for up to $9 million. We notified our members on 18 August 2017 that an extraordinary general meeting (“EGM”) will be held on 4 September to seek members’ approval for the sale of our current premises at South Bridge Road (Resolution A) and the purchase of larger premises (Resolution B).
Seventy-nine members attended the EGM on 4 September 2017. A vote was carried out at the meeting and the results were as follows:
- Resolution A was not passed. 33 voted for and 38 voted against, with 1 abstaining.
- Resolution B, as modified, was passed. 50 voted for and 16 voted against, with 2 abstaining.
The modified Resolution B which was passed at the meeting was as follows:
To authorise Council to purchase new premises for the general use and/or benefit of the Law Society and its members at an outlay of up to S$15.5 million (including stamp duty, legal fees, renovations and incidental expenses), and that such acquisition would be funded by utilizing reserves in the General/Compensation Funds and/or a bank loan provided always that no new building levy is to be imposed on the Law Society’s members.
Members who spoke up at the EGM against Resolution A expressed sentimental attachments to our South Bridge Road shophouse and extolled the advantages of having an external façade to represent the legal profession. Council and Secretariat respect these views and now have to come back to the drawing board to see how we can work within the constraints of the shophouse layout as well as the budget afforded by Resolution B in its modified form.
More than just an external façade to represent the legal profession, the Law Society is committed to taking concrete steps to help our members with their practices. The legal profession, perhaps more so than other professions, is facing increasing pressure from automation and globalisation and predictions from HR specialists are loud and clear – the profession at a global level is expected to shrink in the near future whereas robot proof jobs will be those where the human touch cannot be easily replaced. Our profession is now at the crossroads – the decision we have to make is whether to ride this tidal wave of change by innovating, moving up the value chain and exploring new markets, or to be left behind by the competition.
Senior Minister of State (“SMS”) Ms Indranee Rajah met with the small law firm practitioners at our South Bridge Road office on 8 September and with the mid-size firm practitioners on 15 September to brief them on the Committee of Future Economy (“CFE”) Report. She urged practitioners to seize the opportunities identified by the CFE Report and to keep upgrading their skills. For instance, it would be strategic for small law firms to partner with large law firms so that large law firms could refer work that they were conflicted out of to small law firms on the assurance that the referral would be one based on proven quality. The Chairman of the Singapore Accountancy Commission Mr Chaly Mah shared with the small law firm practitioners that some small accountancy firms have managed to give the Big 4 a run for their money by focusing very successfully on niche areas. He cited Mr Nicky Tan of nTan Corporate Advisory Pte Ltd as one such example. President of the Law Society Mr Gregory Vijayendran also explained the work that the Society had been and would be doing to help members position themselves for new areas of work and new markets.
In line with the recommendations of the CFE report, we will be stepping up on more mission trips and country-focused CPD seminars. We organised a mission trip to Myanmar from 20 to 23 August for 17 lawyers from 15 law firms in collaboration with Singapore Business Federation (“SBF”). Our lawyers attended a workshop with SBF members from the construction sector and also had the opportunity to network with Myanmar companies in the construction sector. We also visited the Independent Lawyers Association of Myanmar (“ILAM”), the Yangon High Court and were hosted by Keppel to a tour of their new Junction City Tower office. Participants and Secretariat staff who were on the trip had some of their travel expenses subsidised by IE Singapore.
We are planning three more of such mission trips over the course of next year or so and lining up more CPD seminars to keep members updated regarding countries with opportunities for Singapore qualified lawyers. On 25 October, we held a seminar on Myanmar with a focus on their new Investment Law and Companies Law. We are also working with other course providers to bring more relevant content to our members. Apart from educating lawyers on the law, we also recognise that the 21st century lawyer needs practice management, business development, marketing and leadership skills.
We will be holding a joint networking event on 17 November with the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (“ISCA”) to give our members the opportunity to reach out to accountants to explore potential areas of collaboration. Attending our CPD conferences often presents an excellent opportunity for networking as well. As our conferences and networking events are immensely popular and spaces are taken up very quickly, I urge members to keep a lookout for our mailers on such events and to sign up as quickly as possible. We will look to scaling up our events while keeping a close watch on costs.
SMS Indranee also reminded members to apply for the Tech Start for Law subsidy before the scheme ends on 28 February 2018. The Law Society has lined up a series of training programmes on the various technologies under Tech Start. If members find such technologies too basic for their practice, they can also consider the Capability Development Grant (“CDG”) scheme offered by SPRING. For instance, some law firms have applied successfully for the CDG to adopt specialised IT systems for IP management and the grant is also available for HR consultancy. For more information, please contact [email protected].
Change is often difficult, I’m not purporting that it isn’t. My transition from legal work to management has not always been smooth sailing and I can’t say that I never had my doubts. The fickle-mindedness of humans is often harder to grasp than the most complex of legal documents. We acknowledge that the expansion into new practice areas and new markets come with risks – ironically, something that clients pay lawyers to avoid. We can ease the pain for members to ride out this wave of change, but we can’t erase all pain. Before I sign off, I would like to share this poem that I found on the Internet:
I once heard someone say,
If you don’t change you do not grow,
But I waved the thought away,
For who were they to think they know,
I’d always stayed the same,
A heart that thrived within the cold,
And I had no desire to change,
At least that’s what I had been told,
But deep within my mind,
A thought grew slowly, bit by bit,
Until I felt trapped in my skin,
For it no longer seemed to fit,
There’s a whole world sitting out there,
Changing every single day,
That proves it’s nothing to be scared of,
If you do it the right way,
For a day afraid to turn to night,
Will miss the silver moon,
And a flower that refuses change,
Will never get to bloom,
I had thought I was a thorn bush,
Only good for snagging clothes,
But if you do not dare to change,
You’ll never find out you’re a rose.