Saturday, March 28, 2009

Help with Full Subsidy of Compulsory Qualification Expenses


Last week, I wrote to you about the need for the Law Society to extend help to pupils, who have not been retained by various law firms. I am happy that the Law Society has acted quickly to look into this matter and is continuing to do so.

I want to highlight to you another disturbing practice that I think the Law Society should look into and help resolve in relation to unretained pupils: reimbursement of PLC, EFS, dining and other compulsory filing fees.

At least one large law firm has a commendable practice. This large law firm fully subsidises PLC, EFS, dining and other compulsory filing fees, provided pupillage is completed with them.

However, there are law firms, who do not observe this practice. Instead, what follows in the next paragraph has been a typical story so far.

Several of these pupils were made to work long hours, burn their weekends and holidays, and consciously take steps to distance themselves from their loved ones. These sacrifices were made with the promise and expectation of lucrative retention contracts. Now, as the end of their pupillage period draws near and the utility of the pupil to the law firm comes to an end, these pupils have been told that they will not be retained. In most cases, this is no fault of the unretained pupils but attributable largely to the ambitious recruitment planning of their respective law firms. These unretained pupils will now be penalised by the forfeiture of PLC, EFS, dining and other compulsory filing fees.

As young lawyers enter practice, they are told legendary tales of the unity of our profession and about how we never fail to help one of our own in trouble. It is time to bring such legends home.

I hope the Law Society will enter into discussions with law firms, who have not retained pupils, to help the affected pupils get their PLC, EFS, dining and other compulsory filing fees reimbursed.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?

Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 Salaries For Newly Qualifed Lawyers

Several newly qualified lawyers in Singapore have sought my views on salaries they are being offered by their employers.

Starting salaries at law firms are probably a good indication of how well the firm is doing in these times. It is also perhaps an indication of how much law firms value the talents they attract.

Over the past months, large law firms have announced the following monthly salaries for their newly qualified lawyers:

a. TSMP - $5,000

b. WongPartnership - $4,800

c. Shook Lin & Bok - $4,300

d. Rajah & Tann - $4,000

e. Allen & Gledhill - $3,800 (and no review till 2010)

f. Khattar Wong - $3,500

Many, whose corporate teams have been hit ominously by the economy, have announced lower salaries than in the past year.

Despite this, small and medium-sized firms, which rely primarily on litigation or other dispute resolution work, are not cutting back their salaries. Most are paying starting salaries of between $4,000 and $4,500, in addition to offering their young lawyers referral bonuses (ranging between 20% - 30%) for business brought into the firm. A few firms have been known to offer less than $3,500.

Young lawyers receiving offers of less than $4,000 should consider alternative careers in public service or other positions in the private sector. They will probably be paid similarly, and will also be in a better position to pursue their respective interests. They should also ask themselves if law is really what they want to do.

I know a few newly qualified lawyers are considering taking a break until the market picks up. Some are going travelling or looking at doing pro-bono legal work in international organisations.

Nevertheless, if you love the law or can see yourself in law till you enter your grave, the salary you receive should be of less concern. The experience you get should be the primary concern.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Reply: Connect Young Lawyers To Employers

The following reply was received from the Law Society of Singapore regarding matters raised here.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?


We thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.

We agreed your concerns are valid and we will immediately step up publicity to increase our members’ and general public’s awareness of our website facility to match pupils to law practices. In this regard, we will also speak to both the Chairpersons of our Small Firms Committee and Young Lawyers Committee to assist us in our publicity efforts and explore ways to assist the pupils.

Our website facility has been underutilised in the past as you have rightly pointed out that majority of pupils has no problem securing employment. There was no necessity for any third party to intervene into the employment market of the legal fraternity.

Once again, the Society expresses its gratitude to you for taking time to bring this matter to our attention.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Connect Young Lawyers To Employers


Several law firms have announced that they will not be retaining all the pupils they had recruited. While announcements are pending from certain law firms, there are indications that they too may not be retaining all their present pupils. Most of these pupils affected were attached to corporate legal teams but there are some from litigation practices. This is a clear departure from past years where law firms announced 100% retention very early in the year.

There are several positive signs in this trend. It has prompted more applicants to look to small and medium law firms for possible pupillage and employment. It has encouraged more to consider advocacy work, which remains a growth area in these uncertain times. More have also tampered their expectations of pursuing lucrative retention contracts with large law firms, as the disdvantages and opportunity costs of doing so clearly outweigh the benefits.

The Law Society of Singapore can help in this regard by compiling a list of law firms willing and able to recruit newly qualified lawyers at this point. The Law Society can also serve as a resume bank for pupils and connect them to suitable opportunities in the market. I am aware the Law Society maintains a list here but I am not sure if it is updated.

Similarly, the Young Lawyers Committee of the Law Society, perhaps together with the Professional Affairs Committee of the Singapore Academy of Law, can take an active interest in this area by being more proactive in these times. There are many things it can do in this regard.

The Singapore Corporate Counsel Association has already agreed to render assistance to those pupils not retained and who are interested in doing legal work in in-house legal teams by compiling a list of employers still open to recruiting such persons in their respective legal teams.

Similarly, I understand the Workforce Development Agency is coming up with a scheme to help fresh graduates and apprentices by supplementing salaries with subsidies.

This information can be shared with the law firms who may be open to recruiting newly-qualified lawyers and current pupils or newly-qualified lawyers.

I hope you will consider these suggestions.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?