In this piece, we feature Sharanjit Kaur, partner in the divorce and family team at Withers KhattarWong.
Sharanjit has been practising for 21 years and her practice areas are family and insurance. She specialises in Family Law and assists clients in all areas of matrimonial law including property settlement, spousal maintenance, parenting matters, child support and financial agreements. Sharanjit tells us about the most impactful and memorable cases she has worked on and shares about her passion for the community.
What made you want to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
As a young girl I have always been very vocal and outspoken. I have always been passionate about fairness. With these traits, I became a lawyer.
My journey thus far as a lawyer has been full of excitement, with times when I have felt laden with work and thoughts of wanting to quit would hover over me. However, with the support of my family and colleagues, I have been able to move on to where I am now. I am a proud mother of three beautiful girls who are my source of inspiration each day.
What is the most impactful case that you have worked on?
One of the most impactful cases I have handled which have a deep impact on my career and how I approach practising is when I was involved in a case, trying to get the care and control of a 3 month old baby back to the mother and having to see how emotional the father and grandparents were in handing the child over to the mother and at the same time seeing how joyful the mother was. However, I also saw how the couple were torn between the wishes of their respective families and their own wishes. I was in my early years of practice then. This experience led me to better understand the emotions of both parents towards a child and how their role in a child’s life is important. It also influenced my practice to be built on empathy. As a family law practitioner, I am always mindful of the delicacy of human emotions and how I can help support my clients who are going through difficult times.
What is your most memorable case and how has this experience shaped the way you handle cases now?
Every case that I do is of importance to me and always leaves an impact one way or another and I remember all my clients. However the most memorable one was involving a two year old girl who could return to Japan with her mum after a long battle here. The matter went on for about one and a half years. It was always disheartening to see my client in tears and all alone here with her small child. She had within her a fighting spirit and determination that made it even more important for me to help her get back to her home country. My team and I learnt about the different legal systems and how cross-border issues can complicate matters. Since this case, I have handled many more of such cases and each time I am better equipped to deal with the sensitivities of clients in this predicament.
More importantly, this was one of the first few cases which was eventually resolved through mediation and certainly helped parties to be more realistic and practical and see the benefits of reaching a compromise in the interest of the child.
What legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
Mediation and arbitration as dispute resolution in my view will feature largely in family disputes as it has many benefits and reduces unnecessary acrimony that sometimes can have a negative impact on children. This becomes especially significant with the rise in the number of cross-border marriages, bringing about a span of cross-jurisdictional matrimonial matters that parties and their lawyers have to consider. Avenues such as mediation provide parties and their lawyers with a platform to have open discussions to facilitate parties in reaching an agreement, and can be helpful especially when trying to meet a middle ground between the different positions taken by the Courts in different jurisdictions.
How do you think improvements in technology will impact the nature of legal issues or the ways in which legal issues are handled?
Technology in the legal sector has become very important for efficient communication in view of the time zone differences of various jurisdictions. This presents the legal sector with many new opportunities and that were not available when I first started out as a young lawyer. For example, with the aid of technology now, without-prejudice meetings and negotiations can easily take place virtually between parties and lawyers at a time convenient for everyone with the assistance of video-link technologies, making it much more convenient to exchange ideas and try to help parties reach an amicable agreement.
What do you think is the value lawyers bring to the table, in a deal, a case?
A lawyer can be instrumental in many ways and so the value of a lawyer cannot be understated. For example, in family law cases, a family lawyer can provide clients with a reality check on what may likely happen if the matter were litigated and assist the client in making an informed decision as to whether or not to settle the matter and if so, what terms are acceptable or fair for the client. This is especially important for the issue of division of matrimonial assets. A family lawyer also acts as a pillar of support especially when clients get emotional. A family lawyer can be a confidante and someone who can remain emotionally steady to continue providing sound legal advice even in the midst of an emotional and acrimonious time for the client.
What motivates and drives you on a daily basis?
My family and my team with whom I work very closely with keep me going. Also, not forgetting the several people out there whose lives I can make a difference. The unique feature of family law allows me to make an impact in a person’s life, as I walk the journey with them during difficult times of their lives. This is what brings meaning to my work.
What are your personal interests and passions outside lawyering?
I like to see children smiling, confident and pursuing their fullest potential. That is why I volunteer at the Sikh Welfare Council and the Sikh Education Foundation where I get to help children and families. I provide free legal advice and spend time with children from the community who may come from broken families, or people who are facing family issues.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.