the definitive first-year guide for the Singapore law student in the UK brought to you by the United Kingdom Singapore Law Studentsâ€™ Society
Foreword When Steve Jobs was in discussion with his architects over the new Apple Campus in Cupertino, he famously wanted only one toilet throughout the whole campus. Logistics aside, the idea was to really get people to cross paths more frequently, and from increased interaction, for more ideas to generate. For similar reasons, Marissa Meyer of Yahoo! also controversially banned “work from home” arrangements, because she believed real ideas can only spring from physical collaboration.
As you read this Foreword, you might be frantically packing for an early trip to Italy with your parents, before school starts in the Fall. Or you might be trying to squeeze in a few pre-law internships that Mommy got for you (I did one of those; saw fancy offices, but frankly learnt nothing about the law). Maybe you’re volunteering at an NGO that gives out quasi-legal advice; or you’re simply just sitting at home and marathoning the latest season of House of Cards. Whichever Fresher you are, we bet some part of this guide is for you. Tech-heavy references aside, I also want to use this opportunity to encourage all of you to just step out of Before I go into the details of how we got to this- let me your comfort zone, come early to the SLF, and speak do a bit of shameless self-promotion. I’m Weng Keong, early to your batchmates or your seniors. Get advice, the incumbent President of the United Kingdom Singa- get opinion. The thing about the law is- everyone has an pore Law Students’ Society (“UKSLSS”). And together opinion. My experiences all the way from pre-law up to with the best Organising Committee one could wish for, ending 2nd year of law school, was that everyone had we are organising the Singapore Legal Forum on 15 Au- something different to say. Practice this, don’t practice gust 2015, at 9am. We have a special workshop prepared that. Do this module, don’t do that module. Everyone for Freshers: we got Tip Top to sponsor some coffee and has a point of view. The idea isn’t to ignore everyone, currypuffs, some Trainees from Rajah & Tann (Adam or to take everything as gospel truth. What one must Liew) and WongPartnership (Sean Poh), and a recent do is to accumulate all that information overload, and BCL graduate (Stephanie Chew) to just talk about their from there, conject one’s own informed view and opinlaw school experiences and give you guys some practi- ion. You cannot do that if you haven’t spoken to anyone. cal tips about surviving enjoying the next 3 years. Un- What’s the worst that could happen? Someone ignoring fortunately we only have 40 workshop slots available so you? Move on to the next person with the smile. try to sign up fast! If you don’t get in, maybe you want to consider one of our other workshops instead. So yes, this brings me back to this Law 101 Guide. As a Society we represent all Singapore students studying law After the workshop we have a panel discussion by a in the UK. Regrettably, we tend to represent students group of eminent lawyers- Mr Thio Shen Yi SC, Presi- from Scheduled Universities more because by virtue of dent of the Law Society, and Mr Hri Kumar SC, an MP numbers- more Singaporeans tend to go to Scheduled and Partner at top litigation firm Drew & Napier. They Universities. But we will never stop any Scottish friends, will discuss Choosing your legal practice and helping or non-scheduled friends from participating and being law students plan their future. Finally, we have Senior a member of this Society. Minister of State Ms Indranee Rajah to talk about developments in the Singapore legal industry; before we For the longest time, no one on the UK side has puball break out into a Careers’ Fair. There, you can have a lished a law school guide for our Freshers’. Starting law chat with Trainees and Associates from Singapore’s top school can be very intimidating. We have thus gotten law firms: Allen & Gledhill, Baker & McKenzie.Wong & all our University Representatives, from our different Leow, Clifford Chance, Drew & Napier, Rajah & Tann, UK universities, to just give you some practical tips. Rodyk & Davidson, Shook Lin & Bok, the Singapore We have divided the tips into 3 sections: Academic life, Legal Service, TSMP, and WongPartnership. Extra-Curriculars, and Career Development. Obviously 2
with the current economics of the law student labour market, we have decided to go with a stronger career development focus. This isn’t an academic journal, it’s very informal and conversational. Read what interests you- there’s only so much time in the world. But it is our sincere hope that this publication will just make figuring out the first year of law school that much simpler. Kok Weng Keong President UKSLSS 2014/2015
Contents Academic 1. Law School Textbooks Eva Teh Jing Hui, University of Leeds 2. Making your own Case Briefs/Taking notes in Lectures Rachel Ng, University of Bristol Extracurriculars 4. To Moot or Not to Moot? Aakash Sardana, London School of Economics 5. CCAs: Which ones to join? See Su Mei, School of African and Oriental Studies 6. Balancing Academic and University Life Boya Li, University of Durham Careers 6. How to research a firm? Kendrick Deng Zhaoguo , University of Exeter 7. Building Commercial Awareness Wilson Pek, King’s College London 8. Writing the Perfect CV Zara Ann Loh, University of Liverpool 9. Writing the Perfect Cover Letter Ng Zhuo Yang, University of Warwick 10. Signing up for Firms’ Open Days Ng Jia Quan, University of Birmingham 11. The Qualification Journey: Tan Yu Song, University College London
12. Think you don’t want to practice? Christopher John Tan, University of Cambridge 13. Staying in the UK: Barrister versus Solicitor Cheng Xi Tan, University of Sheffield 14. What to do with your first Summer? Darryl Chew, University of Southampton 15. Talking shop at the Careers Fair Kok Weng Keong, King’s College London 16. The Importance of Pro Bono Liang Yao Chang, University of Manchester
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TEXTBOOKS by Eva Teh Jing Hui University of Leeds
So you’ve chosen to embark on the three-year journey to a law degree in the UK? Contrary to what some may say, reading law in the UK requires just as much reading and academic rigor as in either NUS or SMU. Your best companions on this course will be your books – not only will they be one of the first sources you turn to, they may even be your last resource in times of dire need (i.e. when you’re desperately trying to understand Land Law a week before your exam…).
ly, if you choose to purchase your books new, you may be able to cut costs by buying on Amazon, which offers free shipping for students!
Academic texts focus on a key concept, instead of providing an overview of the law like textbooks do. Similarly, your professors may recommend that you read certain academic texts to prepare for your seminars and examinations. You will need these mostly when you’re doing further reading and preparing for a specific topic The books you will most commonly encounter in law in an examination or if you’ve been assigned an essay school can roughly be divided into textbooks, academic on it. Accordingly, you may find it more cost-efficient to texts and casebooks. Additionally, you will have three borrow the relevant books from your library or refer to options to choose from when acquiring them – buying e-books online. new, buying second-hand or simply borrowing from your library. My advice would be to wait for your re- Finally, casebooks often provide a concise overview of spective professors to give out the reading lists for the the law, summarize key concepts and landmark cases year and refer to them prior to making your purchases, and may even provide essay outlines. They are therefore as they will be very useful guides to choosing the most very useful if you find certain topics difficult to grasp or if you’ve simply neglected a topic and need to cover it suitable books to base your study of the law on. quickly before the exam. However, do note that over-reThis is particularly so for the Core Textbooks that will liance on casebooks is generally not recommended, as be your introduction to each topic in your modules and it is important to read the judgments of landmark casthat you will need in order to prepare for seminars/tu- es yourself in order to deduce the ratio decidendi and torials. Always remember to check that you’re getting observe how the judges reached their conclusion(s). As the correct/latest edition of your textbooks! Your pro- such, you may wish to buy a casebook for easy reference fessors may also recommend certain textbooks as they but it will also be possible to borrow them from your are pitched at an appropriate level for the course, while library. some may be useful for their in-depth discussion of theory (important for essays!) or their clever use of mind It is hence important to refer to materials other than maps to supplement learning. It may be advisable to buy textbooks, academic texts or casebooks, such as statyour textbooks rather than borrow them from your li- utes, case reports and specialist periodicals. In your law brary if there are limited copies available, as you will student career, you will also find yourself spending a be referring to them rather frequently. One way to save great many hours trawling legal and academic databassome cash would be to buy them second-hand, either es such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. As far as possible, from seniors or at bookstores. Your student law soci- read widely and beyond your books in order to gain a ety may also organize a book sale at the start of term as greater understanding for the law. All the best! mine does, so do keep a look out for that! Alternative4
Lecture Notes & Case Briefs by Rachel Ng University of Bristol
Hello incoming Freshies! I am sure all of you are excited for the seemingly daunting challenge that lies ahead. As ‘kiasu’ Singaporeans, I am sure you would love to get all the tips you can get to make surviving law school that little bit easier. In this short write up of mine, I will attempt to address the query of how you should make your own case briefs as well as the issue of taking notes in lectures. As you may imagine, different people have different learning styles. Some are audio learners, some are visual learners and so on. To pick the best method of making notes, you need to understand what works for you as an individual. Personally, I commit things to memory by listening. Hence, when I head to lectures, I simply tune into what the lecturer is talking about and try to understand that particular topic. It is not everyday that you have the privilege of having lecturers who are also the authors of the core textbooks you use. Hence, make good use of it. I guess minor note taking is fine if you really must write something down. However, that isn’t what I do. Depending on your law school, lectures may be recorded and uploaded onto an e-learning platform for you. I belong to the lucky few who attend such a law school. That being said, ultimately, you can simply invest in a good dictaphone and bring them to lectures with you. After the initial lecture that I have attended, (the one I did not take any notes in), I like to listen to the lectures once again at home before I sleep. That is when I start connecting the dots and making my notes. Of course, this is only the preliminary step. These notes are usually made of scribbles and more often than not, are usually not exam-proof. Hence, I will start to build on them from the material I acquire from the tutorial readings. Whilst many lament that the extra readings are, well, extra, and not really needed, I beg to differ. For many who complain about being poor at the essay writing component during exams, these extra texts are a God-Send. They give you a diversified myriad of perspectives, that enable you to produce an excellent essay.
Try it for 1 tutorial, you will know what I mean. Of course, being a law student myself, I understand that we are not Saints and no humane, self respecting, fun loving student will do EVERY SINGLE extra reading. (Unless of course, you are really super ‘kiasu’). The key is to study smart. Consult your seniors. Usually for each topic, there will be a pattern of common essay questions. Build your notes around that. If I may be completely honest, I spent my first year listening to lectures at home. Most of my friends are usually surprised to see me at lectures. Before you begin to judge me for being lazy, just wait till your summer accustomed body gets hit with the cold gloomy English weather. Kudos to you if you love the cold. But unlike the famed Disney Princess from ‘Frozen’, the cold DOES bother me. To a disturbing extent I may add. Hence, for all those of you who can empathize with me, NOT TO WORRY. Being physically at lectures and listening to them at home is simply the same thing. You get the same material, albeit at a different location. If your law school pampers you by recording the lectures, make use of it. There is no point in forcing your sorry ass out of bed and rushing to the lecture hall, half awake. Because, as mentioned above, the key thing to do during your first listening of the lecture is to UNDERSTAND. If you are someone who needs to read before understanding a concept, your best friend will be the textbooks. For such a learner, I would suggest reading something light, like law express before attending a lecture on that particular topic. DO NOT be overly ambitious and attempt to read the core text. Sometimes, it may simply end up confusing you. That being said, if you think you are up for the task, by all means go ahead. The perk of doing so is that you will get a part of your tutorial reading done before the lecture even starts. My last parting advice to you will probably be: Stay humble, stay kind. Share your notes with your weaker friends because, you never know, you might need their help one day too. Law school will fly by, and really, it is not as menacing as it seems. Enjoy! 5
TO MOOT OR NOT TO MOOT by Aakash Sardana London School of Economics
There are not many reasons as to why one should not try new things. University in general is about trying new things. As you embark on your legal studies in the UK, you are sure to try new things from travelling to paying your own bills. Anybody who tells you that you should not travel for the upcoming three years would be nothing more than a party-pooper in your eyes. Mooting on the other hand is an experience that is more controversial. Some shun it like the bubonic plague while others embrace it like Scarlett Johansson. I will try convincing you over the next few hundred words that no matter what, you should at least try dipping your feet into the mooting sea. The definition of mooting itself is intimidating to a greenhorn. The oral presentation of a legal argument before a judge and against an opposing counsel is essentially a mock hearing before the Supreme Court. If you think you have an idea what this is like because you have watched ‘Suits’ before, you are wrong. There is no passionate shouting of “Your Honour” (because the UK uses ‘my Lord’ instead) and no passionate shouting in general. It does not work like a debate, for someone is actually judging you on your arguments alone and not how passionately you deliver a speech. Often times, one enters a moot with a speech and realises that apart from the opening, nothing he has said to the judge was on the piece of paper.
mitted the next three years of your life to read law. We all agree that you do not have to become a lawyer just because you have a law degree. However, you should be able to experience and taste the skills required of a lawyer in his paradigmatic setting, the courtroom. It will also let you decide on a future career track. Are you suitable for litigation if all you do is stutter when questioned about the efficacy of your arguments? Should you instead consider a legal career in more advisory-related work? Or do you hate applying the law to facts so much that this taster of legal work convinces you that your future is not in the legal field? Law students face lots of tough choices. Mooting might assist you in being decisive about yours. It is my responsibility to tell you that mooting, however, is not all fun and games. Beyond the scrutiny you receive from your judge and opposing counsel, the weeks that you spend mooting will kill you. Competitive moots tend to become your life. You spend time reading up on the law and finding arguments to make. You pore over numerous written judgments, to find singular words that could assist you in making your case. You are likely to fall behind on work and are likely to miss lectures.
I however, am of the opinion that it is all worth it. Everyone takes a mooter seriously. You become almost an authority on the law of the area that you covered. Your Why? Because in moots, judges do not sit silently while research skills will be unmatched. You will be able to you make an impassioned, prepared speech. They in- create solid arguments and prepare crushing counterterrupt, question, and throw curve balls. A real moot arguments. Some of these skills may even help you in will seem more like a conversation with a judge than a exams, as moots always cover grey areas in the law, just speech-making contest. So that is one reason why you like your exam papers. ought to moot; you will be made to learn how to really think on your feet. After all this, you may decide that mooting is not for you. That is completely fine. Many of us do. What you The second reason is a bit more obvious. You have com- must do, however, is try mooting once. 6
CCAs: Which one to join? by See Su Mei School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London “Participate in life instead of just watching it pass you friends at your side, you’d definitely start feeling a little by.” Trite, but this maxim has proven valuable in my en- less lost during your time in university! deavor to make the most out of university life in the UK. Law school may be workload-heavy, but, at the risk of Joining a CCA in university is a choice; one that I would sounding cliche, it is equally important to maintain a encourage you to make. In the absence of form class- balanced and healthy lifestyle. CCAs form an integral es, teachers and a structured learning environment, the part of a holistic university experience that includes move to university life abroad can be daunting for those pursuing what one loves, trying out new things and not used to the independence expected of you. Joining making new friends in the process. Higher learning a CCA is thus a great way to get involved with the uni- is, after all, not only a time to enrich your mind, but versity. It helps to ground you in the huge population of also to do some self-discovery and embrace your inner students, putting you in the good company of contem- oddball. Moreover, the life skills learnt and friendships poraries with similar interests and quirks. With such forged between you and your fellow CCA-mates will
certainly add colour and diversity to your university life As they say, one’s university years form the most memand beyond. orable period of one’s life. Clearly however, this cannot be so unless one chooses to participate! And I certainly On a more practical note, CCAs can also be a real boost hope you do! to your CV. It equips you with the essential marketable soft skills, such as communication and interpersonal skills, leadership abilities and team management skills. It also allows employers to know you better as a person behind your paper qualifications – a valuable dimension to your application! So now that I have (hopefully) convinced you to take up a CCA in university, the remaining question is – how do you choose which CCA to join? The best way to find out is by going to your university’s Freshers’ Fair at the beginning of the academic year. There, expect to be constantly ambushed and hauled to the countless booths set up to brown-nose unsuspecting freshers and claim them as their own. Jokes aside, you will discover a plethora of student-run interest groups to choose from, both academic and non-academic. Be it a small spark of interest that you would like to explore (think quirky societies like the Curry Society in University of Leicester), or a burning passion that you wish to pursue (socio-political interest groups like the Feminist Society or the Marxist Society in SOAS) there is surely something for everyone. If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can even start your own society! Note that, depending on your university, CCA membership may be free or could come with a nominal fee. Therefore, be sure to sign up for the CCA’s taster events and trials at the Freshers’ Fair before you eventually decide to join. To date, I am a member of my university’s Singapore Society (must-join!), Hiking Society, Badminton Society, Law Society and Lawyers Without Borders Society. Personally, the most enjoyable times I have had during my first year in university is, without a doubt, my co-curricular experiences. Trekking 17km through spectacular landscapes to see the White Cliffs of Dover with friends from all over the world (pictured above) was one of my most memorable days in the UK. Indeed, joining the Hiking Society to try out something I would not be able to experience back in Singapore represents a crucial reason for my desire to pursue an overseas education in the UK. 8
Balancing academic and university life by Boya Li University of Durham As the famous saying goes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but all play and no work makes Jack a mere toy, and therefore, it is important to strike a balance between work and play. Many of you would have probably already talked to some of your seniors to get a rough guide on what to prepare yourself for. While Law may seem like a rather intimidating subject to read, you will genuinely be losing in life if you feel obliged to dedicate a majority of your time in university on the subject you may come to hate in a few months’ time. I am kidding. Personally, I feel that the best balance between work and play would be 30:70 in the first year. After you grasp the pace of teaching and workload in your university, you can then better adjust this balance for your second and third years. First year doesn’t count. I’m sure you already know. So afraid not, pre-reading now is definitely unnecessary. You are honestly not going to be any smarter than those who do not pre-read so I suggest that you should enjoy the holidays before beginning this new chapter of your life. At least that is what I did and I managed my first year perfectly fine. Here are three tips based on my personal experiences. TIP #1 – STUDY SMART DO NOT PROCRASTINATE. FOCUS on what you’re doing and complete it within the time allocated for it. Do not make the silly mistake of procrastinating, or studying with your phone beside you. This would only distract you. DO NOT MULTITASK. You are not brilliant at it and will never be. Therefore, you should definitely not be watching TV while writing an essay. Concentrate on reading the cases, writing your essays and finishing your tutorials. You would realise how much time you save when you focus and you can enjoy time off work in peace. This also includes skipping minimal lectures but never skip a tutorial. Prepare your tutorials in detail. I found that my tutorial prep work contributed to a large part of my efficient revision during exam
period. It saved me a lot of time having to look through the lecture slides as most of the main points are summarised in my tutorial work. When you study, make sure you understand the concepts and cases so that you do not have to waste extra time on trying to understand them again when you’re doing revision. TIP #2 – CHOOSE YOUR CCAs WISELY While you may feel the need to choose law-related societies so that your CV could potentially look good, I have so many friends telling me how they regret joining those useless law societies. I am not sure about the other universities’ but at least for mine, I am pretty sure all the law-related societies are useless. If you think about it logically, you spend the lectures and tutorials focusing on this subject, would you really want to waste the time allocated for CCAs on this as well? In my honest opinion, I would suggest going for something you would enjoy, perhaps even a passion that you don’t get to study or if all else fails, a sport so that you get a fair amount of exercise each week to keep fit. After all, a part of university life is about constantly meeting new people and you could only do so if you join the societies that are not law-related. TIP #3 – KNOW WHEN TO SAY NO It is not always that you have to reject an invitation for a night out or a gathering. Maximize your chances to meet new people during your first term because honestly, who studies in the first sem? If you genuinely want to experience the UK style of living, get yourself drinking but do it responsibly. Sem 2 would require you to know the balance, which should be a 50:50, between going out and doing work whereas in Sem 3, even the locals would know it’s time to study and that is when you need to say no. You would have all the time to drink and party after exams. Almost 5 whole months of summer! I believe to a certain extent the chance to experience different culture and meet friends from all over the
world has somewhat influence your decision to study abroad. Do not be too academic oriented in your first year. Make the best out of your first year and slowly achieve this balance in your next two years. UK’s universities provide us with a whole lot of new things to try and you should definitely take this opportunity to pursue your interest outside law. With that, pack your bags and get ready to experience a whole new year of adventures ahead of you.
HOW TO RESEARCH A FIRM by Kendrick Deng Zhaoguo University of Exeter
It is important to research a law firm well, among others, to attain a thorough understanding of the firm, to know the key skills and attributes graduate recruiters look for in aspiring lawyers, and ultimately, to know whether this is the career and the firm for you. The following are some pointers which I find useful when researching a firm.
Importantly, you should identify the key competencies that recruiters look for in future trainees. Different firms look for different key attributes, depending on their nature of work and type of clients. You should demonstrate with examples at every stage of the application process how you possess these attributes.
Participate in networking sessions, open days, and internships. Just as the firm would like to know whether you are a good fit for the firm, it is also important for you to determine if the firm is the right one for you. Attending an event organised by the firm, visiting the firm’s office, and participating in an internship are one of the best ways to attain a better understanding of the firm. This is because the opportunities to network with the various lawyers and representatives of the firm are highly Know what to research on valuable as they provide you a sense of the culture of There are no hard and fast rules regarding what you the firm. You can also enquire more about the training should research on as long as your research is relevant programme, opportunities for growth, and challenges to the firm and it supports your reasons for making an faced by the firm. application to the firm. Personally, I like to focus my research on key areas such as the firm’s expertise, recent ￼￼￼ transactions, growth, and culture. Read widely The websites of law firms present a lot of useful inforFor instance, when researching the recent transactions mation. However, in order to understand and use the undertaken by the firm, it helps to look out for transac- information well, it is helpful to have some knowledge tions which relate to areas of law which appeal to you as of financial and legal concepts and terminologies. There it makes it easier for you to justify why you are applying are many websites such as Lawyer2B, LawCarrers.Net, to the firm. The transactions undertaken by the firm can and The Lawyer which provide legal news and issues also assist you in determining whether the work which in ways which are not too difficult to grasp. To keep the firm undertakes matches your interests. abreast with changes to the economic landscape, you can attain your business news from sources such as The Economist and the Financial Times. Narrow it down There are many law firms in the market which are different from each other – although they may seem similar at first instance. As such, it is useful to research widely on the legal market and then narrow down your research on firms that interest you. Once you have narrowed down your search, you should then undertake extensive research on each firm.
BUILDING COMMERCIAL AWARENESS by Wilson Pek King’s College London
When it comes to securing a training contract, recruitment partners of law firms place great emphasis on commercial awareness, citing it as a key skill that applicants must possess. Broadly speaking, commercial awareness entails understanding the commercial and economic conditions that businesses, both local and abroad, operate under. It is also important to appreciate how political decisions may impact commercial organisations, from the sole trader up to multinational corporations, as well as the regulatory and legal framework that businesses and individual employees operate under. Clients seek commercially practicable solutions, and not just academic answers to their legal problems. Having good knowledge on how businesses are run, and the key factors for profitability and growth, would allow for you to tailor legal advice accordingly, with a clear understanding of situation the client is in. The ability to demonstrate that you really understand a client’s busi12
ness needs and objectives is essential to becoming a competent lawyer. As a student, you will have free access to a large volume of high-quality information through your university, and there is no better time than now to develop your commercial awareness. The following offers a few sources in which one may acquire commercial awareness from: LexisNexis Your university will subscribe to LexisLibrary, which provides access to cases, legislation and journals. In addition, most universities would also have access to all UK national newspapers and many regional newspapers in full text. Reputable newspapers remain one of the best sources of insight into political and commercial events, and illustrate the impact of such on businesses and individuals. It is important to consider the differing
views offered by various journalists on the same topic, While the above highlights a few good sources relating as it allows for a more holistic understanding of the is- to commercial awareness, it is in no way exhaustive. sue. Commercial awareness is a dynamic concept and is constantly changing. While such awareness takes time LexisLibrary also has a section for ‘current awareness’, to accumulate, regularly reading reputable newspapers which provides information about the planned or latest and keeping abreast of current affairs, both local and inchanges to the law in the UK, whether it is a Bill go- ternational, will definitely help develop such awareness. ing through Parliament, a new case and the impact of a Additionally, keeping informed of government policies change in the law on an industry, business or individual. and the yearly Singapore Budget will allow for greater understanding of Singapore’s economy as a whole. ReThe Financial Times (FT) member that firms are asking for commercial awareness Your university is also likely to provide access to the for a good reason, and it is important that you analyse London-based FT. FT has been a leading newspaper how such news and issues inter-relate with the legal inthat offers a global view of business and markets, in dustry, and apply such knowledge of commercial activaddition to the occasional sector-based supplements. ity into your role as a future lawyer. FT also provides a list of reports and extracts online, and such reports may be useful in understanding issues which clients may face. Wall Street Journal (WSJ) The New-York based WSJ provides detailed news into the banking and finance sectors, and carries quality analysis of economics and global markets, and acts as a good supplement to the FT. The Economist From time to time, the Economist profiles different industry sectors, and such articles provide a good overview and understanding of the given industry. The Economist website offers a search-by-topic filter which allows you to narrow down on specific industries for your research. South China Morning Post (SCMP) The SCMP provides a very useful overview of Asian markets and supplements the other sources mentioned above, which provide a more international outlook. Singapore Law Watch (SLW) The SLW is available through their website or app, and collates the daily legal news in Singapore. In addition, it also contains commentary on developments in the legal scene in Singapore which provides a good analysis. Latest judgments and legislation passed are also available for you to keep yourself informed of the recent developments in the law.
clude, ‘legal work, commercial work and voluntary and pro-bono experiences’.
WRITING THE PERFECT CV by Zara Ann Loh University of Liverpool
A CV is the most important document that we submit to potential employers. For most of us, it is the first form of ‘contact’ that we have with these employers and it is a reflection of our accomplishments and abilities. Very often, our CVs determine whether we land a position or an interview in the firms we apply to or not. As such, we should not disregard the importance of having a CV that stands out amongst the 800 or more applications that employers across the board receive annually. You might find it useful to follow the ‘H.I.R.E.D’ guidelines, 14
that have been compiled based on popular tips given by employers, when drafting your CV. Headings Employers have indicated that headings and sub-headings should enable them to read your CV more easily. For example, instead of listing all work experiences down under a generic heading, applicants should create sub-headings and list the work experiences down according to their nature. These sub-headings can in-
principles from the case to the question will not gain us the desired grade. Similarly, applicants must elaborate on their abilities and skills. For example, if you Also, consistency is key and the same type of headings were tasked with legal research or taking draft stateand bulleting should be used throughout. It is often the ments from clients at your previous legal internship, little details that distinguish a well-written CV from the you should mention these tasks and duties as well. others. However, CVs should not be overly lengthy and should Interests be succinct and kept to 1-2 pages. Employers go through many CVs and an overly lengthy CV is unlikely to add Many people think that their interests are not important value to your application. and should be left out of their CVs. This is untrue as a person’s interests often gives potential employers an idea Detail of the applicant’s abilities. Applicants should not leave out details about their involvement in extra-curricular Lastly, applicants should also ensure that their applicaactivities as these activities will indicate to employers tions or CVs are well detailed and spelling or grammatthat you are capable of working in a team or capable of ical errors should be avoided at all costs. It is advisable good time management. for applicants to get a third person to read through their CVs. A detailed CV shows employers that the applicant In addition, each application that is sent out should is meticulous and sincere and as such, attention should have a ‘personal’ touch to it. Applicants should research be given to this aspect. on the firms that they are applying to and read up on the firm’s ethos and ensure that their applications display Thus, the factors listed above should be taken into conthat their values and beliefs are in line with the firm’s sideration when drafting a CV and might serve as refervalues and beliefs. This is likely to make an application ence if you have already drafted a CV. stand out from the others. Relevance While applicants are often encouraged to list down all work experiences including their part-time jobs, good applicants often use part-time job experiences to demonstrate their skills. For example, simply listing you’re your involvement in voluntary work or your parttime job does not show employers the relevant skills that you have acquired or honed. Instead, applicants should write about the impact that they made at their previous workplaces or projects that they were involved in. Applicants can also demonstrate skills gained from their past experiences such as their ability to work under pressure to meet the demands of customers at their part-time jobs. Elaborate This is an extension of the point above. Applicants should always elaborate on their work experiences whenever possible. Like our law essays, merely listing down a case and not discussing the relevance of the
WRITING THE PERFECT COVER LETTER by Ng Zhuo Yang University of Warwick
Whilst a cover letter serves to front your CV in any application for an internship or a training contract, it could play a more vital role in the success of your application if you deem it as your first chance to impress an employer. It will certainly take time before you master your own ‘perfect’ cover letter, but here are some basic dos and don’ts to start you off.
In the last paragraph, you should finish by thanking the employer and expressing how you are looking forward to receiving a response.
When you draft a cover letter, always bear in mind that it should be a ‘hook’ to encourage the employer to consider your CV, and to advance your application to the next stage. In other words, this means that long stories Broadly speaking, a cover letter could be broken down need not be told. Instead, be concise and to the point – into three sections. In the first paragraph, you should your cover letter should be no longer than an uncrowdtypically include your year of study, the programme ed side of A4. that you are applying for, as well as the time periods in which you will be available. Since accuracy and meticulousness are key in a legal work environment, pay special attention to detail in In the middle paragraphs, you should mainly explain order to avoid any blunders in your cover letter. Douyour interest in working for the firm, as well as what you ble-check your spelling and grammar without relying could offer in return. on a spellcheck programme, and make sure that you have got the firm name and other key details right. In relation to the former, you should clearly demonstrate your understanding of the firm, as well as the Looking ahead, be sure to approach your university’s role that you are applying for. This is likely to require careers service for further pointers as you seek to masyour own research, so as to be able to describe what it ter your own ‘perfect’ cover letter. For instance, Waris about the firm that particularly interests or impresses wick’s Student Careers & Skills provides comprehensive you. As such, you may also wish to tailor your cover access to a range of online resources, as well as one-toletter to each specific application in order to target the one support sessions with a specialist adviser to discuss firm in question. careers guidance or job search advice. In relation to the latter, you should clearly demonstrate how your skills could be a good match for the specific requirements of the role that you are applying for. Be sure to describe any features of your past experiences that are particularly relevant in greater detail than your CV can, so as to make a stronger case for why the employer should advance your application to the next stage. 16
SIGNING UP FOR OPEN DAYS by Ng Jia Quan University of Birmingham
Law firm Open Days are common in the United Kingdom, with most of the major players holding such events several times a year. Almost, if not all law students seek to do an internship during the course of their studies. Fewer students, however, take the opportunity to visit a firm during their Open Day. This short write-up aims to provide a brief insight into Open Day events and why you should consider attending one yourself!
Furthermore, rather than starting your first day at the office completely clueless of your surroundings and the people around you, it is definitely more helpful to be meeting familiar faces from the Open Day you attended.
Last and most importantly, It wouldn’t be surprising if firms favoured students who have gone for its Open Days when selecting candidates for other programs. What are Open Days about? The employment scene for the legal sector is a highly Different firms hold their Open Days in varying fash- competitive one, and having gone for the firm’s Open ions. A typical Open Day involves going on a guided Day might just be the distinguishing factor for a suctour around the office, listening to talks on different cessful application. practice areas of the firm and might include collaborative group work. There will also be opportunities to For example, a friend of mine was recently offered an interact with associates and other members of the firm. internship at one of the largest firms in the UK without having to apply, after he displayed good performance at The purpose of such events is to offer students an idea the Open Day. There are clearly compelling reasons why of how the firm operates and possibly encourage appli- you should consider applying for Open Days. cations for vacation placements and traineeship programs. Things to note Once you have decided to attend an Open Day, the next step would be submitting an application. Most firms Why you should consider signing up Although some students might hold the view that such that offer Open Day programmes list activity informaevents add little value to employability, the benefits tion, dates and application processes on their websites should not be understated. so it would be worth doing a quick comparison of the different programmes to see which one appeals most to With numerous firms offering internship and trainee- you. ship programs, it might be challenging to decide which firm to apply to. Being able to resonate with the cul- Some firms such as Linklaters and Slaughter and May ture of the firm and having an interest in the work that offer exclusively first-year programs while other firms they do are definitely important considerations when choosing a firm. Your Open Day experience is a valuable opportunity to see the firm behind the scenes before embarking on a longer-term relationship with the organisation. 17
Note: This article was written to the best of the author’s knowledge as of June 2015. Changes since then to qualification requirements and features of the Bar Examinations can be tracked by referring to the respective websites of the Ministry of Law (http://www.mlaw.gov.sg) and the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (http:// www.sile.edu.sg), both of which have also served as primary source material for this article. PREFACE Before you continue, do note that there are many other feasible careers paths upon graduation, as laid out in the rest of this Guide. This article focuses on the most typical career path for Singaporeans who study Law in the UK - becoming a lawyer in Singapore practising Singapore law. The focus here is on potential lawyers starting out in the private sector and not Legal Service Officers (LSOs), for which the requirements are slightly different (e.g. a longer Practice Training Period).
THE QUALIFICATION JOURNEY: Steps After Graduation by Tan Yu Song University College London
graduated with at least Lower Second Class Honours in a degree from an approved university (do note changes from the UK academic year of 2016/2017 onwards); it must also be a single degree lasting 3 consecutive academic years, unless specific approval has been granted to waive those conditions. Having met these citizenship The description ‘lawyer in Singapore practising Singa- and academic pre-requisites, one then needs to fulfil the pore law’ is a mouthful but necessary for accuracy, since relevant examination and training requirements. one can be a lawyer in Singapore practising non-Singapore law (but directly practising Singapore law out- Overseas graduates, unlike local graduates, must meet side of Singapore is not possible currently – although two further requirements to be ‘qualified persons’: the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) • Pass Part A of the Bar Examinations (‘Part A’) is purported to change that one day). The bulk of this • Complete, at the minimum, 6 months of ‘relearticle will deal with being admitted to the Singapore vant legal training’ (RLT) or ‘relevant legal practice or Bar, which allows one to practise all areas of Singapore work’ within a continuous 8-month window. law; a small section, however, will deal with the Foreign Practitioner Examinations, an examination which, on Part A is essentially a conversion examination that expassing, allows a foreign lawyer to practise only limited poses overseas graduates to Singapore law. To prepare areas of Singapore law. for the examination, one would learn about the subYou will also soon realise in this article that the requirements for admission to the Singapore Bar differ respectively for fresh graduates and graduates who choose to first qualify and/or practise in some other jurisdiction before coming back to Singapore. Both will be laid out in some detail so that one may compare the different routes to becoming an ‘Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore’, the proper title conferred upon someone admitted to the Singapore Bar. SINGAPORE BAR ‘Qualified Person’ To be admitted to the Singapore Bar, one must at the minimum be a ‘qualified person’. There are numerous pre-requisites for this. First, one must be a Singapore citizen or permanent resident. Second, one must have 18
stantive laws of Singapore by taking certain core modules (e.g. Criminal Law, Company Law, Evidence Law). Learning is mostly self-directed with subject reading lists and access to primary material provided to candidates, one only needing to pass the actual examination after approximately 4 months of studying in order to satisfy the requirement. There is an optional preparatory course with lectures and seminars at the National University of Singapore, but the course is not always held and much depends on the schedule of the Singapore Institute of Legal Education.
The second requirement requires more explanation. One should note that ‘relevant legal practice or work’ is for those wanting to be admitted to the Singapore Bar at a later stage after graduation; you can only meet the requirement if you have, for the specified period, been
practising anywhere as a qualified lawyer in any jurisdiction or been doing legal work as a legal counsel for a corporate entity satisfying the necessary requirements. For fresh overseas graduates, RLT is the only relevant component to be satisfied. Although RLT technically covers barrister training in the UK or legal training in any other country, the term ‘RLT’ is almost always used in Singapore to describe supervised training under a formal training arrangement with a Singapore law practice. Most law firms in Singapore are able to take on RLT trainees. RLT trainees are generally much more involved in actual legal work and given more responsibilities than interns, and it is during RLT that trainees may truly experience for the first time the hectic nature of working life at a law firm. Part B of the Bar Examinations and the Practice Training Period Upon becoming a ‘qualified person’, both local and overseas graduates then need to fulfil two final requirements to be admitted to the Singapore Bar: • Pass Part B of the Bar Examinations (‘Part B’) • Complete the Practice Training (PT) Period, which is exactly 6 months within a continuous period of 8 months (different for Legal Service Officers). Part B is a compulsory 5-month practical law course and examination for both local and overseas graduates. To prepare for the examination, one would learn about the procedural law (as opposed to substantive law in Part A) of Singapore. While there are several core modules (e.g. Real Estate Practice, Family Law Practice, Professional Skills), one may also choose certain electives (e.g. Admiralty Practice, Intellectual Property Law Practice). Lectures are often online and optional, but
practice sessions, or tutorials, are in person and compulsory. The actual examination is held approximately after 4-5 months of studying. PT is a period of supervised training distinct from RLT, and most graduates almost always satisfy this requirement via a practice training contract with a selected law firm. The main difference is that PT must relate to the practice of only Singapore law, thus a PT trainee must complete PT with a Singapore-based law firm or a firm that is able to practise Singapore law, such as one under a Formal Law Alliance (FLA). Furthermore, unlike for RLT, law firms conducting PT under a practice training contract are subject to various statutory requirements regarding the conduct of the training; for example, there must be a supervising solicitor for each PT trainee with certain responsibilities needing to be fulfilled. In practice, this translates to a more structured training programme in which law firms typically come up with a checklist for the entire course of the training - something usually absent in RLT. Exemptions for Requirements Regarding ‘qualified person’ criteria, exemptions may be granted for the Part A of the Bar Examinations only if one is a senior lawyer with substantial experience; even then, such exemptions are only granted on a caseby-case basis. There are no exemptions for the RLT or ‘relevant legal practice or work’ requirement that are applicable for the private sector. As for Part B of the Bar Examinations and the PT period, one may only be exempted as a whole from both requirements if, satisfying all of the below, one: • Is a ‘qualified person’ • Is admitted to practise in a common law jurisdiction • Has obtained at least two years of RLT and/or ‘relevant legal practice or work’. Applying these exemptions in practice would mean that fresh graduates from the UK will not be exempted from any of these requirements; however, a person who just completes a two-year solicitor training contract in the UK, for example, may be exempted from Part B of the Bar Examinations and PT, although subject to Part A and RLT (itself satisfied by the training contract). A senior lawyer practising in some other jurisdiction may be exempted from all the requirements altogether if he or she has substantial experience in the legal arena.
Timing Typically, most fresh graduates complete the requirements in this order: 1) Part A, 2) RLT, 3) Part B, 4) PT; it would take approximately 2 years to fulfil all the requirements upon graduation to be admitted to the Singapore Bar. One is allowed to do RLT before Part A; in fact, one can technically do RLT and prepare for Part A concurrently to save time, but that is practically difficult considering the rigours of training at a law firm in general. For 3) and 4), the general rule is that one may only undergo PT after the completion of Part B, but if one previously completed RLT before Part A, then that constitutes an exception. Part B and PT cannot be done concurrently, and which one comes before the other depends on the rule above and whether the exception is granted. Most people adhere to the orthodox timeline, as preparing and sitting for the relevant examinations first allows an overseas graduate to gain knowledge that arguably leads to more fruitful training thereafter.
requirements, one must be practising in Singapore, or have received a job offer to practise, at a recognised law firm in Singapore, whether local or foreign. One must also have engaged in ‘relevant legal practice or work’ (same definition as previously mentioned) for at least 3 years in the 5 years immediately preceding the date on which the application is made. Crucially, RLT does not suffice here, so time spent under a training contract or pupillage will not help satisfy the requirement.
hope that this article has served you well. Either way, I wish you all the best of luck with your journey after graduation, wherever that may lead you to!
In theory, taking the FPE and then applying for the FPC may be useful for those who intend to, immediately after graduation, first work for a few years in either the Singapore offices of international firms in Singapore or abroad (e.g. remaining in the UK after graduation), but who also wish to be qualified in any of the permitted areas of Singapore law under the FPC at some point without the need to be admitted to the Singapore Bar. However, in practice, unless it is difficult for someone to meet ‘qualified person’ pre-requisites, such as citizenship requirements, it is not too difficult to be admitted to the Singapore Bar if one prepares for and passes Part A (assuming that an exemption from Part B and PT is granted, with the RLT requirement necessarily satisfied) at a later stage in one’s career. Thus, the FPE may not be as useful for Singaporean citizens as it is for non-Singaporeans unable to be ‘qualified persons’ but yet wanting to practise certain areas of Singapore law in Singapore.
Regardless of the order in which one completes the requirements, due to Part A and RLT, a UK graduate does not obtain an advantage in terms of the timeline as compared to a local graduate unless Part A and RLT are done concurrently (but rare in practice, as explained above). However, a UK graduate may arguably still obtain some practical advantage over a local graduate by doing RLT and thus stepping into the workplace earlier to gain practical experience and forge closer networks, Conclusion rather than spending one more year on legal studies. This article has been one of the lengthiest and most technical ones in this Guide, for a good reason – to give you Foreign Practitioner Exam (FPE) a detailed explanation allowing you to start planning for The FPE is an examination, the passing of which allows a future career in Singapore as a practitioner of Singaforeign-qualified lawyers to apply for a Foreign Prac- pore law. However, I would encourage you to explore titioner Certificate (FPC) from the Attorney-General’s other career paths as much as you can while you are still Chambers to practise in permitted areas of Singapore in law school. As a mere law undergraduate, you will law, such as banking and finance, mergers and acqui- never know enough of what actually goes on in practice, sitions and intellectual property law. The FPE should but what matters is discovering as much as you can and not be confused with registration as a Foreign Lawyer, finding a sense of direction, so that when you eventually a procedure that does not involve any courses or ex- take your leap of faith after graduation, it is more likely aminations and allows one to practise any foreign law than not that you will end up at the right place. in Singapore upon successful registration (e.g. English law). Thus, the FPE is not relevant for someone only Even I am not fully convinced as of yet that I should wanting to practise foreign law in Singapore but not any be admitted to the Singapore Bar per se, even if I do kind of Singapore law. want to practise law in general, but if you are already set on becoming an ‘Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme There are several pre-requisites for one to be eligible to Court of Singapore’ (it does sound pretty amazing) or sit for the FPE. Apart from age and disciplinary record practising some kind of Singapore law with an FPC, I 20
Think you don’t want to practice? by Christopher John Tan University of Cambridge
Who says law graduates need to practice as lawyers? Many do not. In Singapore, it is easy to think of individuals with legal backgrounds who went onto non-legal careers: Ivan Heng (Theatre Director), Prof S Jayakumar (Minister / Diplomat), and, of course, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Having been accepted to read law in the UK, I would imagine that you have minimally considered a career as a practicing lawyer. Practicing as a lawyer is great: personally, it is something I intend to do. However, it is also good to keep one’s options open, which is one of the reasons why I will do an internship with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees this summer. After all, if one hasn’t checked out the alternatives, how can one be so sure that a legal career is really the best fit for one’s interests and skills? For me, I made up my mind to study law – and become a lawyer – at 16. 16 was a naïve and over-optimistic age for me. If this sounds like you, would you really trust your 16 year old self with the rest of your career?
go into unrelated fields requiring no particular academic background such as human resources or banking (banks do hire law graduates regularly), or one of the many Management Trainee Programmes offered by large multinational companies. The options are there for the taking, and this is without yet considering careers like court reporter, where one is not a practicing lawyer but still involved with the law. Arguably, a law degree is most marketable to law firms, and one would have a comparative advantage in areas which share a common skill set, like public relations or the civil service. Obviously, I am not qualified to give specific advice on individual non-legal careers. However, do research any non-legal career paths carefully: go for relevant networking events or company open days, and maybe do a non-law internship in your first year summer. Find out as much as possible to make an informed decision as early as possible: should you subsequently decide you do want to practice as a lawyer after all, the search for training contracts begins in the middle of your second year.
It is a truism that a law degree gives one transferrable skills such as analytical reasoning and a sound grasp of Ultimately, I would say, do what makes you happy: it is language. Mooting gives one confidence in presentation your career. and thinking of arguments on the cuff, should the moot judge throw curve-ball questions. Working as a lawyer often gives one skills in negotiating, and a certain level of commercial awareness. Looking at that skill set, careers in journalism, advertising and public relations spring to mind: as with lawyers, words are the tools of these trades. If you cast your net wider, the civil service (especially the Administrative Service and the Foreign Service), intergovernmental organisation work, school teaching and consultancy are possible. Indeed, there is no reason why you can’t 22
Staying in the UK: Barrister versus Solicitor by Cheng Xi Tan University of Sheffield
When I first started on my legal education in the UK, I was bombarded with pieces of information about the UK legal professions and on top of that list was the differences about the two main career paths that a lawyer could take in the UK. What is a barrister? What is a solicitor? I am sure many of us would have encountered this issue at various points in our education, be it during the UCAS application stage, or further down the road when we are considering our future career prospects. Especially for those of you who hope to carve out a career in the UK, it is imperative that you know the differences between a solicitor and a barrister. So what is a solicitor? A solicitor provides legal services directly to the client and is often the first contact for a client seeking legal services. A solicitor often works in a private law firm and advises on the general legal steps to take and would be dealing with the client until the case is complete. If a legal issue requires the assistance of barrister (i.e. if the issue require advocacy or specialist opinion), the solicitor would then instruct a barrister. A barrister would work primarily in the courts, arguing on behalf of their clients. A barrister would often be self-employed, and working in groups known as “sets”. He or she would then contribute to the upkeep of the shared premises (know as “chambers”). In general, a barrister would not have much client contact, instead working on a case through the instructions of a solicitor. For those inclined to take the solicitor path after graduation, one would then have to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for one year, followed by a training contract with a law firm for two years. Upon
completion of both the LPC and the training contract, the candidate would then be qualified to practice in England and Wales. For the potential barristers, it would be the one-year Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) followed by a pupillage with a set of chambers. After completing the pupillage, one would then have to choose a set of chambers that he or she wants to join as a tenant. The decision between choosing a barrister or a solicitor career path often lies on a myriad of factors. A barrister would have to possess strong advocacy skills and quick thinking in court while a solicitor would have to possess better interpersonal and networking skills when dealing with clients. Some would also prefer to work individually, self-employed (as a barrister) while others prefer to work in an organization like a law firm (solicitor). In truth, the decision to become a solicitor or a barrister is often a very personal one based the strengths and weaknesses as well as the circumstances surrounding an individual. Another important point to note would be the deadlines to adhere to following the decision for either career paths. For a solicitor-to-be, most law firms would begin recruiting their trainees at the end of their second year in the LLB degree. For a successful applicant to these firms, the firms would often pay for their LPC before beginning the training contract. In addition, many firms would also offer vacation schemes for second-year students in the winter or summer holidays, and a candidate should also consider applying for such work placement schemes. A candidate interested in becoming a barrister should apply for the BPTC through the Bar Standards Board between November
and January. For work experience, the candidate could also apply for mini-pupillages with the respective sets of chambers. In conclusion, the decision between the career paths in the legal profession in the UK would be down to a series of factors and considerations. For us Singaporeans keen to stay in the UK, such considerations would also include making the stay in the UK permanent, away from our families and friends. Ultimately, it is really up to the individual to decide what is best for your career and yourself.
WHAT TO DO YOUR FIRST SUMMER by Darryl Chew University of Southampton
Imagine this. You have just finished your 1st year examinations after a month of hard work and right in front of you now lies 3 months of holidays, your first summer holiday as a law undergraduate. What are you going to do with it? The first thing in any law student’s mind would undoubtedly be to take a break from anything to do with, or closely related to, law. Personally, that idea was indeed very tempting. Yes, I did go for a short holiday and took some time off law to rest my poor brain. But on top of that, I also completed a 1 month internship during my first summer. You might hear this exact phrase during your 1st year from seniors - “Use your 1st year/summer to travel because you will not have time in the future”. As a senior, whilst I can honestly tell you that there is indeed some truth to that statement, I would however strongly recommend against using your whole summer to relax but also seriously consider gaining relevant work experiences.
at the timeline of events from now till graduation, where would you think is the best time to make mistakes and learn from it? It would not be your 2nd summer because you would be applying for Training Contracts and doing more internships in a bid to impress your employers, in the hopes of being offered a Training Contract. Nor would it be your 3rd summer because it would be graduation and on returning, it would be your Relevant Legal Training and Part A examinations. This effectively leaves you with your 1st summer. Law in theory and law in practice is very different, which is why mistakes are bound to happen. I cannot emphasize clearly enough the importance of having this opportunity to learn from your mistakes and in turn will allow you to give a better performance for your 2nd year internship.
In fact, I would even say that you should expand your options to also considering non-law internships. Undeniably, experiences in the legal sector is essential. However, that is merely necessary but not sufficient if you wish to practice law in Singapore now. One advice that It is strongly advisable to do a law internship, regardless a lawyer gave me was that we should look beyond the of the duration. Why? Simply because: conventional lawyering because doing non-law work 1) This is the best chance for you to gain practical now might actually be very useful for us in moving legal experiences by learning about law in practice; ahead as the experiences we gain from the other sectors 2) To possess a chance to impress future employers will differentiate us from the other students. Because 3) To network; and most importantly, law is flexible and is essential in all sort of firms, MNCs 4) To make mistakes and learn from it. or banks, the knowledge and experiences gained from there will undoubtedly help boost your CV and make The first 3 reasons are self-explanatory given the current you more desirable to a potential employer, even if it is situation of Singapore’s legal sector. It is the final point not in the legal sector. that I wish to emphasize the most. As a first-year student, it can be assumed that you would not have much That being said, I am not trying to paint a grim or dull legal experiences unless you have completed a prior in- picture of summer nor am I insinuating that you should ternship before. Based on that assumption and looking not take the time off to relax and enjoy. Those are in fact
highly recommended before you start your gruelling second-year at law school because you have deservedly earned it. However, what is important is that you balance your time well in summer to give effect to both enjoyment and gaining working experiences. Your first summer is what you make of it and it can be a stepping stone for your future career. The choice is yours and yours alone. Only you can decide what to do with it.
TALKING SHOP: Singapore Legal Forum Careers Fair by Kok Weng Keong King’s College London
The two big Singapore law schools- NUS and SMU both host Careers Fairs for their students every year. We can’t expect Singapore firms to travel to the UK for your individual law schools’ fairs, so this is where UKSLSS steps in to save the day! Hosted at the tail end of the Singapore Legal Forum every year, we give all UK students the opportunity to network with the leading players in Singapore’s legal industry. Hear from associates about their lives in Singapore’s most exciting practices, and make a more informed choice when applying for your next internship or training contract. Here are 5 tips before the big day:
for example. Extend that interest commercially- maybe Corporate Real Estate. Start with something you actually know, then ask yourself how it applies commercially. After that, do your homework (Legal500.com, Chambers) and find out which firms are the most competitive in your interested area of practice. Then ask the associates/partners at the booth about what they enjoy about that practice, and how it might difer from academic study of that area!
1. Suit Up The biggest law school cliché is one for a reason. You want the associate or partner you’re talking to to have a good impression of you, and the right attire sets the right tone. Most Litigation interns already have suits hanging in their closets so what’s stopping you from bringing one out on a Saturday morning? I will refrain from quoting “Seven Seconds To Make A Great Impression” from Forbes to save this article from further banality.
Possible questions: • (To a Tax Law Associate) Did you do tax law in university? How wide do you think is the gap between tax law academia and actually practicing tax law? • (To an IP Litigator) How different is studying IP at law school and litigating IP issues? Are evidentiary burdens very administrative and tedious? • (To a Technology, Media, Telecommunications Lawyer) Are competition law/regulatory concerns similar both in the EU and in Singapore? What does actually practicing Competition law entail in Singapore? As a TMT litigator do you appear solely in tribunals or do you get to go to court?
2. Know what you want to know Career fairs are not for unnecessary, tedious small talk. After the fair, you are supposed to come out of it wiser, and more informed about what kind of lawyer you want to be.
Ultimately, you want to get a flavour of the practice and whether you can see yourself working there in the future. Lawyers spend a lot of time at work, so you want to pick the firm that you can thrive in. Remember, lawyering is hardly an 8-5 job.
If you don’t know what you area you want to practice, 3. Know who the firm wants start with something you do know. Perhaps you partic- Birds of the feather flock together. When lawyers hudularly enjoy a subject at law school- Law of Property, dle together in their offices for hours on end each day, 26
they want to be around people they enjoy being around. deeper into the scene. The Singapore Legal Forum is the No use hiring someone they have clashing working one event we can showcase ourselves as a community, styles with. and claim our rightful place in the Singapore legal fraternity. Ultimately though, humans are very complex creatures, and you can’t reduce every firm’s associate/partner to *** a clashing homogenous type. So ask questions to get a feel about what the firm’s ethos is. I’d personally recommend skipping the “What’s the firms culture like?”type questions. Instead, ask about things that you might be interested in: “Are there firm Yoga sessions at ___?”, “Where did the firm go on its last firm trip?”. If firms are explicitly local, don’t ask whether there are overseas opportunities. Also note that sometimes, “firm culture” differs amongst practice groups within firms. An M&A team might have a very different vibe compared to a commercial litigation team. So don’t let an individual associate/partner’s experience cloud your overall impression of the firm. 4. Be polite Given the student-lawyer ratio, there are bound to be small groupies around each lawyer. If you’re joining a new group, try to edge yourself in, and introduce yourself only at the right time. Based on my previous experiences, lawyers might just be sitting alone idly away from the rest of the hustle. Don’t be afraid to approach them. Always remember to give a nice firm handshake when meeting someone new, and smile a genuine smile- with your eyes. Thank the lawyer before exiting a conversation.
The Importance of Pro Bono
Pro Bono, albeit a foreign concept to non-law practitioners, have transformed into an integral component of an established legal system over the years. It is a means for legal professionals to contribute their time and expertise for the less privileged, ensuring that no one will be put at a disadvantage of not receiving any legal aid due to lack of financial resources and legal awareness. 5. Follow up with an email Therefore, it is beneficial for law students to expose It might seem like only something an overzealous over- themselves to an array of pro bono activities during achieving Type-A student would do but it will certainly their university education since it will allow them to not hurt you. If you’ve had a been particularly substan- amass and hone different sets of valuable skills that will tial conversation, send a follow up email to thank them be transferable as they progress on to their legal careers. for giving you advice. You never know when is the next time you might bump into them again- at an internship, As law students, there are various avenues available to as a future trainee, or attending a CPD event. If you’re participate in pro bono activities. The most accessible too lazy to compose an email yourself, go google an option is for students to join the pro bono society that email template online. have been established by the respective law faculties. These societies, having formed close ties with local orThe UKSLSS is heartened to be the standard-bearer for ganizations, have numerous projects being carried out the UK law students community in the Singapore legal throughout the year. The Streetlaw Society at Univerindustry. It has been a year of ups and downs- with re- sity of Manchester, for example, has a wide variety of cent policy changes by MinLaw, and increasing compe- projects varying from minor ones such as social awaretition in the industry. It is my sincere hope that every ness campaign at the local schools to more specialized UKSLSS member will harness the opportunity to delve ones such as providing essential legal information to 28
The Importance of PRO BONO by Liang Yao Chang University of Manchester
Apart from the university societies, students can also apply for the Internship programme at the Pro Bono Services Office in Singapore. The typical Internship programme run for a period of two weeks and applicants can choose to volunteer at either the Community Legal Clinics section (CLCs) or the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme (CLAS). Such experiences allow students to appreciate the practical work that lawyers provide to apThrough pro bono activities, students are able to hone plicants in legal clinics and also familiarize themselves their research and presentation skills. Most pro bono with the legal aid schemes in Singapore. activities are done in groups ranging from three to eight members, depending on the scale of the project and de- In essence, having considered the different avenues tailed research will be required prior to the actual day available for students and the potential benefits reaped of execution. The amount of research and preparation through pro bono activities, it is evident that pro bono varies according to the requirements of the individual activities lay the foray into the practical legal works of projects. A clear illustration would be the Wai Yin Proj- lawyers and also aids in refining one’s research and oral ect that I have undertaken. The project required me to advocacy skills. Therefore, it is paramount for law stugive a presentation to the Chinese community on the dents to be exposed to Pro Bono activities at an early Immigration Policies of the UK. The objective was to stage of their university education in order to remain equip them with the necessary information, ensuring competitive and in touch with the legal scene. that they were aware and not in breach of the UK law. Such experience has not only allowed me to widen my legal knowledge through extensive research on the subject matter, it has also transformed me into a more confident speaker. the different charity organizations around the city. The vast variety of activities available act as a double-edged sword, firstly by providing the flexibility for students to choose the area in which they are comfortable and confident in and secondly, it allows students to be exposed to an array of legal practice areas outside of the school curriculum.
In addition, if a student is keen in playing a more influential role in the society, he can apply for positions of responsibility within the society such as project manager for one of the projects. The primary role as a project manager is to liaise with the respective organizations and venture into new areas where pro bono activities can be organized for their peers to participate in. This provides the opportunity for an individual to play an active role in contributing to the society whilst acuminating vital leadership and organization skills. 29
“Law 101” is a publication for incoming law undergraduates from Singapore to the UK. The guidebook aims to guide new students through some o...
Published on Dec 13, 2015
“Law 101” is a publication for incoming law undergraduates from Singapore to the UK. The guidebook aims to guide new students through some o...