Young Lawyers’ Task Force Report Summary
In 2016, Council commissioned the Young Lawyers’ Task Force (“YLTF”) to study ways in which the professional training and the professional lives of young lawyers could be elevated. This culminated in a report formally adopted by Council in 2017 (“the YLTF Report”). Council members Paul Tan and Yeo Chuan Tat initiated and led the effort, with the support of then-Council President Thio Shen Yi, SC.
This summary is not intended to be an exhaustive treatment of all the findings and recommendations of the YLTF Report – perusal of the full report at the Society’s website www.lawsociety.org.sg (under For Lawyers > Members Library > Practice Matters > Committee Reports) is highly recommended.
The YLTF identified various aspects of a young lawyer’s career, ran focus groups with young lawyers to tap on their opinions and insight regarding these aspects, and made recommendations based on their findings.
A Selection of Findings and Recommendations
(1) The Training Contract
The focus groups suggested that many young lawyers desired (a) more interaction with their mentors; (b) a more ‘structured’ and directed training programme; (c) more meaningful rotation between practice groups, especially when young lawyers could be uncertain about their preferred areas of practice.
Some key recommendations of the YLTF Report in this area were to:
- Increase the training period to one year, but with a concomitant recommendation to allow firms to charge out for trainees in order to support a more significant allowance or salary for this extended period;
- Allow trainees to appear in court with supervisors in attendance after 6 months of training;
- Give trainees a meaningful opportunity of at least 3 months to work in a department or group different from their primary group;
- Introduce a second band of supervising solicitors comprising more junior lawyers to provide further avenues for training and mentorship;
- Pro bono involvement should be encouraged and be a key component of a trainee’s learning.
(2) In-house Training Within Firms
Young lawyers also expressed a desire for a more structured training curriculum within their firms, particularly to include competencies (skills training) and also soft-skills training (e.g. marketing and business development, stress management).
Some key recommendations of the YLTF in this area were:
- Law firms to be encouraged to introduce and increase training opportunities in-house;
- Young Lawyers’ Committee (“YLC”) to set up portal for firms to publicise any in-house training open to young lawyers from other firms, and to link senior lawyers willing to offer in-house training to young lawyers in other firms with firms willing to host such training.
(3) External Training (i.e. CPD)
Young lawyers were generally positive about the CPD scheme, but felt that more could be done to improve the overall structure of the scheme to cater for different levels of seniority.
Some key recommendations of the YLTF in this area were:
- CPD Committee and YLC should work together to identify and develop the types of courses that young lawyers should participate in each of their first three years;
- Specialist tracks could be developed (i.e. along the lines of skills e.g. corporate and litigation, and subject matter e.g. industry focus).
(4) Treatment in Law Firms
Young lawyers raised a number of areas regarding their treatment by their firms, in which they felt there could be improvement. Some of these include mentorship, work-life balance, and communication of firm decisions and direction.
The Task Force noted that mentorship and regular feedback are critical aspects of any lawyer’s training, and that some of these issues were not capable of resolution by hard legislation, though employers would do well to take note. Some key recommendations in this regard include:
- A more consistent and structured feedback mechanism (including face-to-face two-way feedback sessions with a supervising partner) at least twice a year;
- Other anonymised feedback mechanisms to be considered where possible e.g. associates’ committees or ombudsmen;
- Appointing non-partner mentors who may be more accessible to junior associates;
- A survey for young lawyers taken upon renewal of PCs, with results of the survey to be shared with the profession to scrutinise how young lawyers perceive their treatment and development in firms generally.
(5) Networking and Recognition Opportunities for Young Lawyers
Young lawyers were unanimously of the view that networking was an important aspect of their professional lives, even at this early stage of their career, and particularly beyond the legal fraternity.
The Task Force noted a disconnect between young lawyers’ interest in networking and their lack of awareness and interest in the networking events/opportunities organised by the Law Society and SAL, and also felt that a broader notion of networking could be introduced to young lawyers in the form of participation in Law Society sub-committees. Some key recommendations include:
- YLC to organise peer-focused networking events, whether standalone or tagged to other seminars and conferences (e.g. a Young Lawyers’ CPD Day);
- Young lawyers to be encouraged to join Law Society committees in order to deepen their roots in the community.
The YLTF Report has now been published, as well as provided to the Committee for the Committee for the Professional Training of Lawyers which is in the process of reviewing the training contract regime. It is hoped that this will encourage discussion as well as inspire fresh ideas and opinions which will aid in a fully-informed and all-rounded review of the crucial first few years of a young lawyer’s career. Avenues for the discussion/sharing of such ideas will certainly follow and young lawyers(to-be) are encouraged to contact the Law Society if they have any further ideas.