By Wesley Tan
The Discovery+ Series is a series of events, delivered through online digital solutions, which give students the chance to speak directly with working professionals, and learn about careers they aspire to enter. Given the developments in the COVID-19 situation, Advisory is keen to provide support to the many students who are experiencing woes in this time of disruptions, by digitalising professional mentorship.
The Discover+ Panel on Legal, held on 2 February 2021, was graced by Vikna Rajah (Moderator), Head, Tax and Trust & Private Client Practices at Rajah & Tann; Flora Suen, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Narus; Lynette Ooi, Head of Legal, ASEAN, Consumer at Amazon; and Victoria Ting, Deputy Public Prosecutor / State Counsel, Financial Crimes, Crime Division at Attorney-General’s Chambers Singapore. Attendees included students at various levels of education with a desire to know the different career paths in mobility, and how to best position themselves for such roles.
Work-life balance is definitely achievable. The extent of work-life balance depends on many factors. As a trainee, its difficult to have a personal brand, thus you differentiate yourself by working hard rather than cultivating a specific specialty. However, as an Equity Partner, one has more control of your own time compared to an Associate. Ultimately, lawyers need to make deliberate choices, constantly deciding on what to prioritise – be it in the public or private sector, work will find itself to you!
Plunge into law school with an open mind – law school gives you insight into different types of law, from contract to family law. Study hard and get good grades! Some relish the intellectual rigour at law school, while others grow weary. Nevertheless, this is universal and one has to persevere through. More importantly, find a good job and a good mentor – one who is demanding but fair!
As a lawyer in litigation (e.g. as a public prosecutor), it is natural to be nervous in litigation at first. It is natural to think that one is not sufficiently prepared for a case, and often end up over preparing rather than focusing on the key legal issues.
One has to learn things really fast! Regardless of the field, you may need to pick up things really quickly, from understanding commercial contracts to doing the due diligence or translating many factors into business agreements. You will need to be highly adaptable, and being in law pushes you to get out of your comfort zone.
Lastly, there may be a challenge of work-life balance, thus you will need to know how to prioritise.
Law is varied, from advocacy to advisory! Many people have a wide array of reasons in joining law. The one common element across different fields in law is the need to enjoy reading and writing. You can start by asking yourself if you enjoy or are good in reading and writing, and whether being in law would play to your strengths.
Granted there are many Type A personalities as a lawyer. However, (good) firms ultimately aim for succession planning, promoting partners and charting the long-term growth of the firm. That being said, if you are deemed not ot be suited for your post after many rounds of training, the firm may be forced to recommend an alternate career path that you may be more suited to!
Law can be rather competitive, but it is crucial to find mentors, sponsors (clients, lecturers) and role models is crucial. It is natural to make mistakes, as everything is a learning experience.