Message from Chairperson, Young Lawyers Committee
Heartiest congratulations to the newly called Advocates and Solicitors of the Supreme Court of Singapore!
I invite you to reflect on the long and arduous journey that you’ve taken to arrive at this point in your lives. COVID-19 or not, legal practice is always going to test the mettle and character of each individual lawyer and the legal community at large. This brief message contains a young lawyer’s perspective of the Law Society of Singapore, as well as some things that we can look out for in the course of the year.
A Young Lawyer Introduction to the Law Society
Within the Law Society’s statutory ambit to “represent, protect and assist members of the legal profession in Singapore”, we hope that you will find some comfort in the network provided by the Bar community. The Law Society is supported by a professional and tireless secretariat team, and while large and seemingly daunting, is very helpful for the development of a young lawyer’s career.
My own journey within the Law Society saw me inadvertently volunteering for three standing committees in the Law Society just a few months after getting called to the Bar – if anything, I thought it was a great way to engage with other members of the profession beyond (the typically adversarial nature of) client matters, not to mention the opportunities to learn more about the work of the Law Society and see how I could contribute.
The Law Society has a diverse set of nearly 30 standing committees, each charged with a purpose that impacts the legal community and landscape in Singapore at-large. Certain committees are practice-oriented, such as the Family Law Practice Committee and the Advocacy Committee, and others relate to demographic interests, such as the Young Lawyers Committee and the Women in Practice Committee. The Law Society Pro Bono Services also has committees focused on various aspects of its pro bono efforts, such as the Project Law Help Committee and the Law Awareness Committee.
From experience, I know that through volunteering your time or even just attending an event organised by one of the committees, you will find a group of like-minded Bar members whose work and values resonate with you. As a young lawyer, this is one great way to build collegiality and develop professional courtesy in a much broader and varied setting. Do look out for the volunteer/sign-ups for standing committees of the Law Society, which are typically circulated in November of each year via e-mail, and indicate your interest accordingly.
Furthermore, the Law Society has a large number of support schemes available, regardless of the concern or issue you may be facing as a young lawyer – all confidential and at no charge to you. Frontline assistance is provided via the Members’ Assistance & Care Helpline at 6530 0213, and the team can assess how to best help you through the myriad programmes and schemes available. For instance, if you have any personal issues, mental health concerns or any stress to get off your chest, you can enquire about the LawCare counselling service. A Relational Mentorship Scheme also allows you to be paired up with a senior lawyer, and you can be mentors on ethical conundrums, career assistance and guidance, and stress management. The Law Society places a strong emphasis on the mental well-being of its members, which provides a strong safety net in what could otherwise be a very overwhelming profession.
For some informal and anonymous (and hopefully at times insightful and/or humorous) advice, the Young Lawyers Committee answers junior lawyers’ pressing queries in the Amicus Agony column, which is published regularly in the Singapore Law Gazette. Please feel free to drop an e-mail to [email protected] and look out for your query in the next column!
What’s Next for the Junior Bar?
In recent times, many of you have voiced concerns and expressed doubts about your legal careers. Some have bemoaned the loss of the social and interactive aspect of being part of the legal fraternity. After all, the word “fraternity” is derived from the Old French word fraternité, referring to a body of persons brought together by a common interest.
Nevertheless, compared to countless generations of lawyers who have come before you, none have been as technologically savvy or well-equipped to transition into a highly digital way of interacting and working. You would be more familiar with the power of the Internet and digital modes of communication to a degree never before seen, and as the way law is practised evolves – you each bring to bear a “digital native” or technology-first way to update and modernise antiquated modes of communication.
As a legal fraternity, initiatives from within the Bar and the legal community at large have brought about the best in us in such challenging times, with extraordinary support measures proposed and unanimously supported by the Law Society Council. Recently, the Tech Support Facilitator Scheme was launched by the Law Society to help fellow practitioners who face difficulties with technological tools used for things such as court hearings. I think this reflects the strong common interest that Bar members embody, and reminds us that we can and do look out for one another as a collective group.
In the coming months to the end of 2020, you should look out for the various CPD events and webinars, especially those organised by the Law Society which are available free for Society members. Event mailers are regularly circulated via e-mail and also available on the various event organisers’ websites, including the Singapore Institute of Legal Education and the Singapore Academy of Law. These webinars, particularly the recent Colloquium on “The Role of Lawyers in the Age of Disruption: Emerging Regulatory Challenges”, showed that it is possible to hold rich discussions and debates online. I might even argue that through the use of polls and chat Q&As, such online platforms are more engaging than in-person CPD seminars where it is not uncommon to see lawyers furiously working on their laptops or smartphones instead of paying attention to the speakers.
Of course, we all collectively aspire to resuming physical meetings and the Bar’s social activities in the near future, where you can witness first-hand the impassioned advocacy that our Bar members are known for at townhalls and general meetings. Their zeal and energy should inspire you to do better, not only for yourself and your practice, but also for the benefit of the wider public that the legal profession serves.
With the above in mind, I warmly welcome you to the Bar and wish you all the best in your endeavours.