Despite her busy schedule, we managed to catch up with Lie Chin Chin from CharacterisT LLC to hear what she thinks of the future of lawyers and her advice for up and coming lawyers.
Chin Chin has garnered more than 24 years of experience as a practising lawyer in Singapore. She started her career under the training of Mr Michael Khoo SC and the mentorship of her father, Mr Lie Kee Pong. Driven by a vision to build a platform for competent lawyers to practise without compromising on values, she has been instrumental in growing Characterist LLC into a multi-disciplinary practice dedicated to values at work.
Under her leadership, her firm received awards over consecutive years (2015–2018; Global Law Experts) for being a Boutique Family & Matrimonial Law Firm of the Year and a Boutique Property & Real Estate Law Firm of the Year. Chin Chin has represented corporations and people from all walks of life. She has fought and defended causes at all levels of the Singapore Courts. Her diligence in fact analysis positively assisted the Court of Appeal and earned her recognition by the former Chief Justice Yong Pung How.
So Chin Chin, What do you envision the future of lawyers to be like?
In the days ahead, the need for legal minds will only increase – there is an increasing need for contracts, legal documents and legal solutions as the world becomes more interconnected.
However, this increase will not translate directly to a corresponding increase in the need for lawyers. There is a shift of legal work to non-lawyers, self help kits online and office and of course, AI.
The future of lawyering is about staying ahead of technology, adapting to stay relevant in the fast changing currents and future needs as opposed to rely on history and precedents. There is also a need to specialise in areas of law that are not merely process driven as these will increasingly be taken over by non-lawyers.
What legal areas do you think will become/remain significant?
Civil and criminal litigation will continue to be significant areas of legal practice. AI will be too expensive and unsuitable for many of these cases. In fact, we are currently also grooming many of our younger lawyers to specialise in litigation.
Certain areas of family law will also become significant as the policy and law on family changes. Just this week there is a landmark decision by the High Court whereby a gay man has set up a family unit with his long time partner to father his biological son borne through surrogacy.
This shows that there will be evolving changes in the family structure and dynamics. I believe, as such, lawyers will be much needed to provide the protection for parties in evolving new areas of family law.
Entrepreneurs will engage IT savvy lawyers to help set up businesses selling self help kits. The need for qualified personnel who can draft legal forms and documents will also increase.
What is it like presently compared to the past for lawyers?
The greatest change I find, is the behaviour of clients. They now source for lawyers through the Internet. They are cost conscious and require on demand availability of lawyers. Previously clients depended heavily on word of mouth referral and client loyalty was much easier to retain. I had experienced more of rich and meaningful relationships with my clients in the earlier years.
So, could you share more about how legal technology has or will change the way law is served?
What impacted us most, is how law has to be delivered in a manner that suits the client’s lifestyle. For example, our firm was the first to adopt Dropbox. Using this, the client and their team members share all updated documents and records with us as the project progresses. Not only are clients appreciative of this, we are better able to retain talents to in turn serve clients better. Our staff are happy that we embraced updated technology to serve our clients. They have a sense of pride that we are competent and moving forward. We have also adapted to using google forms for our client’s convenience rather than having traditional forms for clients to complete. Conference calls are now easily made at anytime through wechat, WhatsApp and Skype.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for legal teams?
To continue rendering competent and relevant legal help amidst the vast changes, whilst staying profitable despite the high operating costs, without burning out.
What do you think are the changes in career paths for lawyers?
I expect many will drop out of practice.
Many will go in-house as the big companies invest more in their in house resources and limit the engagement of lawyers. Many will also drop out from the increasing pressurizing environment demanding adaptability to changes and on demand availability. They may opt for teaching or other jobs. Many will be engaged to develop legal software or technology or self-help kits.
What are some of the skills do you think a lawyer should possess?
The same soft skills required of a good lawyer remains much needed. A good lawyer is able to discern information and takes good instructions before he can do a thorough analysis and diagnosis leading to creative solutions. The lawyer needs to possess leadership skills to lead clients, strong EQ, good communication skills, wisdom and good energy. With all the fast paced and vast changes, the lawyer needs to be adaptable and resourceful. It is important to note that above all these, a good heart towards people is key to find good solutions.
Now we are done with the lawyering questions, could you share 3 fun facts about yourself?
Fun Fact #1 I enjoy ballroom dancing and latin dancing. My husband and I do tango, foxtrot, cha cha, quick step, rhythm, waltz, disco rock, rumba, salsa, samba, jive, rock and roll. We continue to learn at the Chinese Swimming club, from an amazing 80 year old instructor, Peter.
Fun Fact #2 I never cooked much in my earlier years building a career, bringing up 4 kids and doing charity work. It was always in my heart to improve my culinary skills. Now the kids are independent – leaving me more time. I found a kind Italian friend, Mario, who is an Italian chef and trained in Italy to be an instructor to chefs. He would come to my kitchen, to teach a group of girlfriends (me included) some special dishes .We have done lamp shanks, ratatouille , making pasta from scratch, carbonara, tiramisu, pizza, turkey roll, focaccia, salad etc.
Fun Fact #3 Travelling! My children would research and plan for trips. We love to travel and experience different cultures. Recently two of my daughters and I spent a day walking around Kyoto and enjoying kaiseki lunch in our Kimonos. We are heading to New York next June for Hamilton and we have also signed up for popular workout classes.
Do you have any advice for our young lawyers?
Do not be fixated about how law practice should be. Rather, be flexible and adaptable to flow with the changes. In any circumstances , you can use your good legal mind to do meaningful work including serving the needs of the community. The work is inherently demanding. Be sure not to lose sight of your priorities. Health and family always come first.
Here are photos of Chin Chin’s dancing class, cooking session with Chef Mario and her recent trip to Kyoto with her daughters.
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.