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The Singapore Law Gazette

President’s Message

Message to newly-called members of the Bar

There are three types of lawyers in the world. Each type is laudable, and has a purpose in society. Each type is distinct from the others.

One type believes that lawyering is a job. It involves coming to work, performing tasks, and going home.

Such lawyers are important. They provide stability and reliability. They can be trusted to ensure that something that needs to be done will be done. They make great colleagues, comrades-in-arms, and bosom friends. They see legal cases as collaborative projects, and will work in teams to complete them successfully. They are the backbone of the legal fraternity.

The second type believes that lawyering is a business.

Such lawyers provide advice, representation and practical commercial solutions to corporations and entrepreneurs. They help their clients expand. They organise their own teams of lawyers, and go on to build their own thriving law firms. They are essential to the growth of the legal industry.

The final type believes that lawyering is a vocation.

Such lawyers see the law as a noble calling, and justice as a noble goal. For these lawyers, their role is to minister to those in need. People who have been wronged, or find themselves in personal jeopardy, find solace in such lawyers. Such lawyers are the soul of the legal profession. They hold, within them, the flame of justice that illuminates and inspires everything we do.

At various times in my career, I have treated lawyering as a job, a business and a vocation. In saying this, I realise I am no different from my brothers and sisters at the Bar, and from lawyers all around the world. I am no different from you.

When you start out as a newly-called associate, you may view lawyering as a job, as I did. The law provided me with a steady salary. I saved enough to put down a deposit for a flat, and service the mortgage. As I did the job of being a lawyer, I learnt the ropes. I made my mistakes, suffered my bruises, and bore my scars.

You will undergo the same experience. It is normal. And it is something to look forward to. Because it is during this period that you will learn the most, you will grow the fastest, and you will form the closest friendships. You will fight in the trenches, at the front lines, in the heat of battle. Those alongside you will become closer to you than your relatives. As the years go by, you will treasure them, and you will treasure your days as a young lawyer.

This period is something to look forward to.

As you become more confident and more experienced, and as you meet more people, you will be encouraged to expand your practice. You will see the reach of the legal industry: every new business or valuable idea requires your legal help. You will form teams of lawyers to reach out to and serve clients. In so doing, you will discover the joy of mentoring young people in the ways of this tightly-knit and fascinating industry.

This period is something to look forward to.

And, when the time comes, it will dawn on you, as it did on me and on many of my lawyer friends, that lawyering is also a vocation.

Legal practice will provide you with a unique blend of knowledge, skills and experience. You will meet situations which call for your assistance and counsel. You will understand that the legal profession has put you in a position where you can, and you ought to, help others. You will see, as generations of lawyers before you have seen, that law is a calling. You will understand that society trusts and values you, and has invested in you, because it knows that you will give back a hundredfold.

This will be the best period of your life, and it is certainly something to look forward to.

Young lawyers, you have now been called to the Bar. Congratulations on your new job, business and vocation. If you are diligent, keen, and kind, you will find gainful employment, social standing, and a sense of purpose. Take this moment to breathe, because the next decades of your life will be fast, thrilling and breathless. We are excited for you to join us.

President (January 2022 to July 2023)
The Law Society of Singapore