Message from Co-chairs, Young Lawyers’ Committee
Firstly, congratulations on this milestone of your professional career! Numerically, the young lawyers’ community forms a significant demographic in the legal community. There were 1,825 lawyers qualified in the junior category of the profession in 2017. A junior category lawyer is a lawyer of less than five years qualification from the date of their admission. This compares with 1,045 lawyers in the middle category of the profession, defined as those between five to 15 years post-qualification.
However, because young lawyers are at the proverbial bottom of the food chain in the work place, there is also a tendency for young lawyers to feel like they’re the least empowered members of the legal community.
This is due, in part, to the mental paradigm shift you’ll have to go through when you start at your law firms, be it as a trainee, or an associate now.
Remember reading your first cases in law school, and having to re-wire your mind to grasp the logic of legal reasoning? You’ll go through a similar process as a first year Associate, where you’ll soon realise that a lot of what worked for you in an academic setting may be ill-suited to helping you deal with the rigours of practice.
We suggest two ways you can make practice meaningful and fun.
First, engage your idealism.
The law is one of a few professions where you can make a decent living by helping people.
Indeed, even though you may not have been told this in your law firm entrance interview, it’s part of the job description. Part of the Law Society’s statutory function is “representing, protecting and assisting members of the legal profession in Singapore” and its mission statement is to “serve its members and the public by sustaining an independent Bar which upholds the rule of law and ensures access to justice”.
Often, we hear from our peers and juniors that they took up the study of law so that they could “help people”. Put that idealism into practice. As a newly qualified lawyer, find time to serve the community and sharpen your skills by participating in the Law Society’s Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS). Even if you’re a corporate lawyer and you don’t want to handle court work, find an opportunity to sign up with the numerous legal clinics run by community organisations and the Law Society.
Using your legal training to give back to the community will remind you of the broader societal importance of the work that you do. Apart from imbuing your practice with purpose, your engagements with individuals who are genuinely grateful for any legal input you can give them will enrich your spirit.
When you find a true sense of purpose in what you do, the mundane day to day “work” aspect of lawyering will be balanced out.
Second, find opportunities to contribute to and engage with the rest of the legal fraternity.
The word “fraternity” derives from the old French word fraternite, describing a body of men associated by a common interest. It also finds its application in the religious orders of the middle ages. The modern conception of the fraternity you now belong to (the legal fraternity) is a community of persons whose function it is to uphold the rule of law.
The Law Society has nearly 30 standing committees devoted to work which directly impacts the legal community. Take your time to go through the entire list, and we’re confident that you will find something that resonates with your personal interests which you might want to volunteer for. Whether it’s a practice specific committee, like the Criminal Law Practice Committee and the Family Law Practice Committee, or whether it’s a demographically defined committee like the Young Lawyers’ Committee (YLC), the standing committees are a great way to network with other lawyers outside your law firm and to contribute to the wider legal community.
This leaves us only to briefly explain the work of the YLC. The YLC’s remit is to organise programmes, activities and events for the benefit and welfare of young lawyers, and to assist and guide young lawyers in the practice of law. Part of the YLC’s terms of reference are to establish relations with similar committees from other jurisdictions to exchange ideas on issues concerning young lawyers and the practice of the law.
To these ends, the YLC organises important legal milestone events like mass call every year, as well as social milestones like the annual lawyers-doctors (and sometimes, inter-professional) networking event. This year, the YLC organised the first Young Lawyers’ Forum, which brought together counterparts from Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong to share perspectives on training opportunities and welfare issues concerning young lawyers. With the support of Council, the YLC selects and sponsors three young lawyers to attend international legal fora every year.
Apart from events, the YLC is a platform through which young lawyers can contribute meaningfully to shaping policies which concern the young lawyers’ community. This year, the YLC is working closely with the Continuing Professional Development Committee to identify and structure more CPD events for young lawyers. This review was undertaken after concerns of young lawyers about the challenges of meeting CPD requirements were surfaced through the Young Lawyers’ Task Force set up by Council.
There is no better time than now to set the right environment and path for yourselves as young lawyers to forge a long lasting and fulfilling career.
We wholeheartedly welcome you to the Bar and look forward to you making the most out of your first years in legal practice.