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The Singapore Law Gazette

Amicus Agony

Dear Amicus Agony,

I am a practising lawyer with about 1-2 PQE. I am getting quite bored with the work that I do in my current firm. I am wondering if I should make the switch to another practice area, or even consider non-practice related legal work (e.g. in-house work). My colleagues are great people and they are very encouraging in terms of my professional growth and development, so there aren’t many push factors to switch jobs either. Would appreciate some advice as to my dilemma, please!

Lost Lawyer

Dear Lost Lawyer,

Your dilemma is very common amongst practitioners who have been in practice for a couple of years. I am glad to hear that you have good colleagues and it sounds like you are working in a collaborative, supportive environment. From the outset, most people who choose to switch firms do so because there are several push factors dovetailing together all at once – be it dissatisfaction with their work, not working well with their colleagues, low pay, etc – in which case it usually sends a pretty clear signal early on that the company is probably not a great fit for them.

However, it sounds like dissatisfaction with your work is the main issue that you are currently facing. If that is the case, you may do well to consider the reasons underlying why you are bored – Are you doing the same work over and over again? Do you find it not much of a challenge anymore? For example, if variety is what is missing, consider asking your Partner and/or Director for help in sourcing different work. If you are in litigation, for example, and if you have been managing many contractual disputes, perhaps a few insolvency, IP, and/or criminal files may expose you to different practice areas.

However, there are certain instances wherein you may consider leaving. For instance, if you are working in a firm specialising in only one or two practice areas, and/or if your Partner/Director does not have the capacity to source for and give you the work which you want, then you might want to consider exploring other options.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer per se. Your feelings towards your current work and role, however, are oftentimes a good indicator which you should not ignore. Having been in practice for a few years already, you would have had a fundamental grasp of what the job entails, although there is still much to learn. It is never too early (or late) to think about which environment, and what type of work, would be best suited for you to undertake that learning.

All the best in your quest for personal and professional growth!


Amicus Agony

Dear Amicus Agony,

I was just called to the Bar last year. Even though I have finished my Practice Training Contract, I still feel lost at work, as if I am still a trainee. Many times, I am scared of asking my seniors for help or guidance because they are so busy all the time, and I do not want to come across as dumb. But this makes completing anything beyond a simple research task or drafting letters very difficult. Please help!

Hapless Associate

Dear Hapless Associate,

First of all, congratulations on having completed your Practice Training and being called to the Bar! This is no small feat and I am proud of you for having accomplished it.

Being a freshly called Associate is tough. You are expected to take the lead on files and handle complex matters independently, with little to no supervision at times. This is a very different life from a Trainee, wherein you were mostly expected to follow and abide by instructions.

With that said, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help. It is always better to ask and clarify and get it right, rather than undertake abortive work which has to be revised later or worse still, send the wrong thing to the client, court and/or counterparties. I think what may make it easier is reconsidering the way in which you ask for help.

To elaborate, it can be intimidating going to a senior and just saying “I don’t know what to do with ABC”. Your senior may not know how to help you as well, given that they would not know what precise aspect of the assignment you are unsure about. However, if you are able to state clearly from the outset – (1) the preliminary research which you have done; (2) obstacles you encountered while perusing the research materials and client documents; and (3) a few preliminary suggestions/solutions and list their pros and cons – your senior would be in a much better position to proffer targeted advice. It would also show initiative and conscientiousness on your part.

I wish you all the best, and hope you turn from hapless to happy Associate soon, cheers!


Amicus Agony

Young lawyers, the solutions to your problems are now just an e-mail away! If you are having difficulties coping with the pressures of practice, need career advice or would like some perspective on personal matters in the workplace, the Young Lawyers Committee’s Amicus Agony is here for you. E-mail your problems to [email protected].
The views expressed in “The Young Lawyer” and the “YLC’s Amicus Agony” column are the personal views and opinions of the author(s) in their individual capacity. They do not reflect the views and opinions of the Law Society of Singapore, the Young Lawyers Committee or the Singapore Law Gazette and are not sponsored or endorsed by them in any way. The views, opinions expressed and information contained do not amount to legal advice and the reader is solely responsible for any action taken in reliance of such view, opinion or information.

The Law Gazette is the official publication of the Law Society of Singapore.