Did you know that March celebrates women? And here at Asia Law Network we kick start March with a series of women features. We are excited to have with us Aurill from Legal Clinic LLC to share with us her journey as a senior litigator.
Aurill is a senior litigator with significant private practice and public sector experience. She has acted in a wide range of complex civil commercial, regulatory enforcement, investigative and public law matters. She has also argued cases involving significant questions of law at both first instance and appellate stages.
Aurill started her litigation practice with Rajah & Tann in 1992, made partner in 1996 and headed its Banking & Financial Services Litigation Practice from 1999 to 2002. She was headhunted to join the Monetary Authority of Singapore in 2002 as MAS’ first Director of Enforcement and later served as the Head of its Market & Business Conduct Department. Aurill returned to Rajah & Tann in 2007 to establish and co-lead its Appeals & Issues Practice until 2012. She spent a second stint in public service as Deputy Chief Counsel (Litigation) at the Attorney – General’s Chambers (Civil Division) from 2012 to September 2017, where she had responsibilities for AGC’s civil litigation function. Aurill returned to private practice in February 2018 as Director with Legal Clinic LLC.
So Aurill, could you tell us what do you think about the future of lawyering?
Lawyers will have to contend with more disrupters than ever before. We will be challenged to push the envelope, both professionally and technologically. But at its core, lawyering will remain what it has always been – a calling to serve by using our mastery of the law to promote justice in society.
That is truly food for thought, what legal issue or area do you think will become more significant in the near future?
Definitely the law keeping pace and being relevant with technological advancements. The legal rules for imposing duty and attributing liability will evolve in response to the increasing use of artificial intelligence, be it in the area of transport, service delivery, commercial transactions or the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Certain legal constructs which we now rely on to produce just outcomes may no longer be appropriate under the new paradigm.
If you were to compare the legal landscape in the past versus the present, what do you think has changed the most?
First, the pace of work. Technology – the internet, smartphones, email, WIFI and online research tools – have all helped lawyers work faster and more efficiently. This is good but it has also blurred the divide between office and home, work and rest. More personal discipline is now needed to strike a good balance and to avoid burn out.
Second, in the field of litigation, we now cite primarily Singapore case law when we argue before the Courts. It wasn’t so when I first started practice more than 20 years ago. Then, reliance on English, Australian and sometimes even Indian case law was the norm. This, and the fact that our local jurisprudence continues to grow in depth and breadth, testify to how far the legal profession has come.
What are your thoughts on legal technology and how it will change the way the law is served?
It is inevitable; it is a good thing. We should embrace it and harness it to work for us. I see legal technology as an enabler to help us work smarter and more efficiently. I don’t think it can replace human relationship or judgment. The lawyer-client relationship is central to how we understand our client’s needs, how we empathise with and advise the client, how we help the client through a legal problem or crisis he/she is going through. All that is not replaceable by a machine.
What do you foresee being the biggest challenge for legal teams in the future?
I am unsure that amongst the various challenges facing the profession, it is possible to single out any particular one as being the “biggest challenge”. I would say that a challenge for the litigation bar is in finding enough opportunities for our younger lawyers to manage their own cases and argue matters in court to prepare them to be advocates in their own right. Client expectations and cost considerations can make this difficult to manage. But, this is an area we as a profession need to tackle. It is good that various initiatives have started in recent times to try to bring this about.
Do you foresee changes in the career path for future lawyers? Will most of them stay in private practice?
Private practice is not the only way to put legal skills to good use. Legal training provides strong grounding in logic, reasoning and the art of persuasion. These are highly transferable and valuable skills that can open doors for the law graduate. We are now producing more law graduates that we did previously. So, it should not be surprising to see more law graduates opt for careers outside of legal practice, whether permanently or for a season of time.
Some also choose to do different things at different phases of their life, to get a different perspective or gain a wider experience. And that’s alright. In my own case, I spent two stints in public service in between private practice. The first, doing enforcement and policy work at the MAS and the second, doing public law litigation at the AGC. Both times, I learnt new skills, developed new practice areas and gained new experiences. These have broadened my perspective and helped me grow professionally.
What other skills do you think young lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
We can expect the environment to become more challenging and the competition to heat up even more. As the saying goes, change is the only constant. So, rather than skills, I prefer to think in terms of attributes. The way I see it, all lawyers (young and older ones alike) need adaptability and resilience to stay relevant in the future.
Now, enough about lawyering – tell us Aurill, are there any hobbies or things you enjoy doing?
Well, distance running is my thing. I get cranky without my running fix. (wow!) I also went through a ‘Transformers’ craze phrase with my two sons. Today, I still hold on to a trunk of Transformers collectibles which I cannot bear to give away.
Gastronomically, I have a weakness for desserts. The dessert spread at buffets determines how much of the other stuff in the buffet line I succumb to. (haha!)
Do you have any word of advice for younger lawyers or aspiring in-house lawyers?
Someone once said “Justice, after all, is a big country, and many are the roads that lead there”. Whether in private practice or in- house, put as much as you can of your legal training to good use by serving justice. To the younger lawyers : Make the most of each piece of work and opportunity that comes your way. The more you put into it, the more you learn and get out of it. When the going gets tough, find solidarity amongst like-minded people.
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.