Message from Co-chairpersons, Young Lawyers’ Committee
Congratulations to all the newly called Advocates and Solicitors of the Singapore Bar on this momentous occasion in each of your lives!
By now, you may have a fleeting sense of what life in legal practice will be like for the next few years based on your interactions with practising lawyers. We thought we’d share our thoughts on how to make practice meaningful for yourself through the lens of a word much deployed in HR wellness parlance these days: “mindfulness”.
Mindfulness involves being centred, fully present, aware of what you’re doing and being in control of your surroundings in contradistinction to being controlled by circumstance.
We suggest three ways of deploying mindfulness in practice that will, hopefully, help you find meaning in what could otherwise be a very overwhelming profession.
Mindful of the Legal Fraternity
The word “fraternity” is derived from the Old French word fraternité, referring to a body of persons brought together by a common interest. We think the modern conception of the legal fraternity emphasises the moral ties and sense of community amongst Bar members, whose common objective is to uphold the rule of law in Singapore.
Part of the Law Society’s statutory function is to “represent, protect and assist members of the legal profession in Singapore”. One way the Law Society accomplishes this is through a diverse set of nearly 30 standing committees each charged with a purpose that impacts the legal community. Certain committees are practice-oriented, such as the Family Law Practice Committee and the Criminal Law Practice 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 maintains committees focused on various aspects of its pro bono efforts, such as the Law Awareness Committee and the Project Law Help Committee.
We are confident that you will find a group of like-minded Bar members whose work resonates with your personal interests, and would encourage you to volunteer your time and contribute to the work of the wider legal community. Engaging with other members of the profession will give you a sense of support and community beyond (the typically adversarial nature of) client matters, and is a great way to build collegiality and develop professional courtesy beyond the confines of your law firm. Sign-ups for volunteers for the standing committees of the Law Society are typically circulated in Novemberof each year.
Mindful of the Public
The mission statement of the Law Society is to “serve our members and the community by sustaining a competent and independent Bar which upholds the rule of law and ensures access to justice”.
You have the privilege of utilising your legal knowledge and skills to assist the public at large, and would recognise that our profession plays a critical function in society. Many of you went to law school with the goal of helping others, and we challenge you to maintain this sense of idealism in the years to come.
When you use your legal training to give back to the community, you will imbue your practice with purpose, and find that your legal input can provide much-needed assurance and comfort to those who feel helpless.
In your day-to-day legal practice, your conduct should always be ethical and compassionate. Lawyers who fail to uphold these values erode the trust and confidence that the public places in us, and calls into question our role as an honourable profession. The immense potential for our profession to do good for society is juxtaposed by the great harm that we can cause if we are not mindful of our duty to the public.
Mindful of Yourself
As the practice of law is poised to undergo a sea change with the advent of legal technology, and competition in the legal industry remains strong, always remember to maintain your individual well-being. Particularly, your physical and mental health is paramount, and many legal professionals needlessly suffer in silence from anxiety and depression.
While stress in legal practice is inevitable, we hope you keep in mind that you will find support and encouragement aplenty within and outside our legal community. The Law Society has recently launched LawCare, a confidential counselling service administered in conjunction with the Singapore Care and Counselling Centre. Being open about the difficulties you face is the first of many steps in building greater resilience and fortitude worthy of our noble profession.
With these three facets of mindfulness, we wholeheartedly welcome you to the Bar and look forward to each of you charting the course for a fulfilling and meaningful career.