1) Who am I?
You are a trainee. That means you are someone who has a law degree and, perhaps, some form of legal training (which is not the same thing). Some of you may have already attended the Preparatory Course and completed the Singapore Bar Examinations by the time you get here. We therefore assume (a) you can think (we understand that some academics are starting to doubt this) (b) you can write and read (i.e. English) (c) you can do basic legal research (though some of us are also starting to have doubts about this) and (d) you can do little else in terms of the real legal work (please try to prove us wrong on this last one).
2) Why am I here?
We will take the question to mean – this firm. We are not competent to answer any questions relating to your place in the universe with the trees and the stars – you must consult higher authorities. Why are you in this firm? Obviously to learn – because of your limitations described in Para 1 above. We are going to take this premise very much for granted. You are going to be paid what we think is a decent allowance (we cannot quantify an amount in this FAQ because it may vary depending on circumstances involving the firm, the trainee concerned and the legal profession generally). But then, you are not here to earn this allowance, nor do we see ourselves as paying you what you are worth (since that will mean you are likely to get nothing). This is simply because the type and quality of work that you can produce will probably be useless to us, most of the time – until and unless you start to learn something; this will, however, bring you to a certain level at the end of your training. So in the meantime your work is likely to cause us frustration, unhappiness and stress. Some of us even feel we ought to charge trainee tuition fees for services rendered in converting garbage into consumable products.
3) So why do you take in trainee?
Because we prefer to recruit from people that we trained ourselves – aside from our obligations to the legal profession to produce lawyers of competence and integrity (although it may not be fashionable to say so, it is something we also take seriously). We are therefore interested in you for what you can become, not what you are. So if you do not care about learning or going through some painful training, you are going to be of little use to us, or for that matter, anyone else.
4) How am I to learn?
By being thrown very quickly in the deep end whenever possible – i.e. to carry out real (not fake or illusory) work, as long as it does not cause us or our clients any damage. Trainees will get to do things that practitioners do and will be treated likewise. Work can be given to you by the legal associates but you must show or extend a soft or hard copy of what you have done to your mentor always (by email, showing the actual product, etc.). This is necessary so that your mentor can (a) supervise and check your work and give you the appropriate instruction and (b) be impressed (or otherwise) by your skill, competence and diligence. The lawyers in the firm have also been briefed not to give or delegate work that (a) they are unable themselves to do, (b) they do not like doing, and (c) they are unable to provide instruct anyone how to do it right. If a lawyer sets you a deadline, then it is given that he/she will be able to meet the deadline if he/she is to carry out the work himself/herself; otherwise, he/she should not impose that deadline.
5) Why am I receiving so much work from everybody?
Alas, there is no definite answer to this one. Why is Singapore more successful as a nation compared to some other countries (we are, aren’t we)? Why are some law firms receiving more work or clients than others? Please refer to the people giving you the work for possible answers. We suppose the answer can be pedantic or profound depending on the way the question is put. Perhaps, they are all just impressed by your ability, diligence and reliability. Lawyers to you are like clients to us – we/they like to go back to where things get done properly.
6) Why am I not receiving work from anybody?
Also no firm answer to this one. Please ask everyone – especially your mentor. Perhaps, they are not impressed or just plain terrified of what you can produce. Accidents do happen to lawyers who make the bad judgment of relying on a trainee’s defective work. If you are becoming unemployed in the firm, please attempt to correct the situation quickly. We are afraid you have to take the initiative – we cannot force lawyers in the firm to “commit suicide” against their will. By default, the mentor, alas, may have to do so.
7) If I made a mess of some work early in my training, will it be held against me?
As a matter of principle, no. We try extremely hard not to be prejudiced against someone just because he/she produced bad work at an early stage. However, having said that, you must realise that for some people, confidence is a very strange thing – once lost, it is extremely hard to regain. Although we will try our best, the onus will be on you to retrieve what is fading or lost. Remember – trust and confidence need to be earned and they do not come automatically!
8) Can I complain if I think I am receiving too much work?
Of course. Please see your mentor. But please be sure you know what you are complaining about. If you feel that you are receiving too much work because you do not know how to do the work, it may be easier just to learn how to do it.
9) Is there someone I can see if I have some problems with some lawyer(s) in the firm?
Yes. Please see your mentor – unless your mentor is the problem; in that event, see another partner.
10) Why must I learn how to use computer software like Adobe, Microsoft Word, E-Litigation, etc?
Because it makes good sense to do so. It is more efficient. Indeed, there are many things that the software nowadays can do which minimize time and resources in preparing a document. Besides, we also do it ourselves. In Rome do as the Romans do. The world is also changing and getting connected very fast. We care little about the fact that other law firms are not carrying out their practice the way we are. You therefore will not find us apologising very much for the way we do things. Anyone who wants to work in an ancient and sedate atmosphere will have to look elsewhere. On the other hand, any suggestions to improve the things we do will be welcomed with much gratitude. If what we are doing (no matter how hi-tech) is wasting time or resources, please tell us. We think we are very quick to abandon things and methods that don’t work.
11) Isn’t this a very stressful place to work?
Yes, if you ask the wrong people. No, if you ask the right ones. Seriously – the work is quite complex and demanding. So are the clients . So are we. We think the stress will subside, if not, be completely extinguished if you stop wondering how to please the partners, and what do the partners want but just do what you think is the best solution to handling the matter. In fact, if you have addressed your mind in how best to handle and solve the matter, you would have most probably pleased the partners and achieved what he/she wants.
12) Besides doing work are there any other forms of training?
Yes. From time to time, we will hold “hearings” in our office whereby you will be given the opportunity to “defend” the work you have done. Such “hearings” can be held for both contentious and non-contentious work. We hope to achieve the following by these “hearings”:
|to create as close as possible the atmosphere of a courtroom so that you are subjected to a situation that approximates reality;
|to make you “eat the food you cook” so that the consequence of good or bad work becomes apparent to you;
|to help you acquire some confidence in articulating and standing up for your arguments or viewpoints; and
|to subject your work to a “load test” to determine whether it is structurally sound so that we can use it in court.
The “hearings” are not meant:
|to embarrass you (we have little time for such luxuries); or
|to assess you; it is a training device, not a grading exercise; you will be assessed on your overall performance.
The firm or its lawyers may also, from time to time, conduct lectures or seminars on our own or for others which you may be asked to attend to receive instruction/information on certain special topics.
13) Do I keep proper working hours (i.e. from 9am to 6.00pm)?
Yes. Because you are a trainee who may eventually be working somewhere else that may insist on keeping proper hours and you should be trained appropriately when you are with us. If you are going to be retained here – no; we do not believe in such stuff. We only believe in and will only judge base on the work you actually deliver and not the time you spend appearing to work. In fact, we always encourage our lawyers to work in an efficient, economical and productive manner.
14) Can I delegate any work to the staff?
It depends on the nature of the work. You can ask them to do clerical functions like photocopying and copy-typing (in fact, you should delegate photocopying and copy-typing to the staff as clients do not pay a lawyer at high fees for his/her photocopying and copy-typing skills) but do not waste their time by asking them to do junk work that is of no use to anyone. Do not also pass them work relating to practice or law – even those that they can handle; you are the one learning, not them. If we want to pass such work to them, we will do the passing ourselves. We suggest that you inform the lawyer concerned before you delegate to avoid displeasure.
15) Can I delegate any work to attachment students?
Absolutely not. Delegatus non potest delegare.
16) Must I “carry”, “curry favour” with the lawyers (particularly, the partners) in order to impress them and/or “get along”?
Absolutely not. We are capable of carrying our own weight. Just trying your best to do good work will go a long way in creating the correct impression. Integrity and honesty are indispensable. Some good manners would also not hurt in “getting along.”
17) Can I just pass my time here doing and learning nothing since I only want to get called?
You are in the wrong place. Such an attitude will nauseate and be met with the deepest horror. You should try looking somewhere else immediately (if such a place exists) after reading this FAQ.
18) Why must I be a lawyer?
You don’t have to. You are only being trained by us to be one. During your training, you should seriously consider whether you really want to practice law. Whatever the position, like it or not, we are going to try to make you a lawyer of substance by the time your training ends.
19) How can I tell whether I have achieved acceptable standards? In other words, how do I tell whether I will make it as a good lawyer?
There are as many theories about this as there are lawyers. A practical way of looking at your professional situation would be to ask yourself this question – if my friends or family members are in critical need of legal services, would I refer them to a lawyer like me with my attitude and abilities?
20) What are the prospects of retention?
Generally good – preference is always given to our own trainees whenever possible (see Para 3). We train people on the basis that we will be stuck with them as legal associates. For this reason, we usually believe our own trainees are better than those elsewhere (we can sometimes be wrong).
21) Does that mean I will better in my work than someone recruited from outside the firm?
Yes, that is possible for a while, given your earlier exposure to our methods and the area of law we practice. Newcomers will probably have a steeper learning curve and will probably take a little longer to pick up things. However, please don’t count on any presumption in your favour – everyone will be judged on his/her own merit. We have no prejudices for or against anyone.
22) Must I stay in CHANNEO LLP if offered a place?
No. It goes without saying that you can always turn us down to work elsewhere. However, if offered, you are likely to be given only a short time to decide as we have our own needs and priorities.
23) Can I protest about unreasonable/incompetent colleagues, regardless of their pecking order?
Of course. Merit is king here, not protocol. We suggest that this kind of problem be approached by you in this manner:
|Bring what you feel directly to the person or lawyer concerned; he/she should be grateful for feedback on his/her shortcomings whether such feedback is meritorious or not.
|If (a) above is not working and/or met with a hostile reception, bring it to the attention of another lawyer and if nothing still happens after that, see a partner.
|If a partner is the problem, try speaking to your mentor (if your mentor is the problem, see above).
|If no one in the firm agrees with you (by weight or numbers, the collective wisdom is likely to be right), then it is likely that you may be the problem.
24) If I want to create a checklist to assist myself in deciding whether I should do my training at or thereafter work in your firm, what are the items that should be included in such a checklist?
Well, the checklist should look something like below. It may well be an oversimplification or an incomplete picture of what is really taking place here (since we only set out the attractive and enjoyable bits, you see), but it should give you a general idea.
|Do you enjoy being a perpetual scholar, forever having to read and digest an unending stream of legal and technical publications (often at short notice and within a short time) or do you believe your education ended with law school?
|Do you see beauty and elegance in a well drafted legal document? For instance, does a meticulously planned and carefully drafted agreement (for non-contentious work) or written submission (for litigation) fascinate and enthrall you?
|Do you find yourself absorbed and captivated by the act of plowing through large quantities of documents and, perhaps, inconsistent instructions from clients in order to extract clarity and sense from what was previously confusion and mess, separating truth from the unmeritorious and the relevant from the irrelevant and superfluous?
|Are you prepared to render obsolete what you have learnt yesterday at great effort and pick up something new quickly because (i) circumstances have changed or (ii) something better has come along? This happens all the time whenever statutes or rules are amended or when we introduce new software or methods.
|Do you find constant change and perpetual motion disorientating? For instance, it is unlikely that you will stay with any computer or software long enough to form any attachment to either. The database system that we use to assemble and track documents for use in court or arbitration will probably be upgraded by the time you read this.
|Are you prepared to articulate and defend your work, what you believe and know and positions you have taken, all the time and often at short notice, in in-house or external seminars or ad hoc discussions?
|Are you comfortable having your work (good and bad) open for all to comment and see over the firm’s LAN through the collaborative or workgroup software that we may be using, all the time? Are you comfortable with people (who may be paralegals, your fellow legal associates or partners) making frank and uninhibited comments about the quality of your work for all to see in this manner? This will continue even after your training as a qualified lawyer or even when you are a partner. By the way, partners are subjected to the same treatment :-).
|Are you comfortable with the attitude that no respect will be given or presumption made about the quality of your work and the validity of your arguments by anyone even if you are a partner (a fortiori, if you are a trainee) in the firm? You will find no one here will care where you are educated, what your qualifications are or who your parents are or who knows you. You are expected to and must be able to defend your work on its own merits all the time.
|Do you find it unsettling to work in an environment where lawyers and clients come in and out at odd hours and weekends with computers running all the time without shutting down and e-mails being sent to you in the middle of the night with instructions to carry out tasks by the morning?
|Are you physically able or willing to do without sleep, now and then (well 🙁 , perhaps, more often than “now and then”)?.
25) How do I apply for a training contract with Chan Neo LLP?
Applications for a training contract should include the following:
|LLB examination results (for all available semesters);
|GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level examination results;
|Achievements including Scholarships awarded;
|Subject Options for your final year LLB.
PS: Although grades and academics achievements are not the determining factor. Emphasis is placed on the applicant’s interests in and attitude towards legal practice.
Completed applications with a recent photograph and resume should be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and attention to The Recruiting Partner.