Thank you Alcina for taking time out of her busy schedule (she is a mum of a new baby!) to have a chat with Asia Law Network on her motivations of being a lawyer and what drives her today.
Alcina is a disputes practitioner who has represented clients across a wide spectrum of industry sectors at all levels before the State Courts, High Court, and the Court of Appeal. She has also represented clients in mediation, both institutional and ad hoc, and arbitration.
Alcina is ranked as a Next Generation Lawyer by The Legal 500, 2019, and was noted to be “very thorough, efficient, dedicated, and a star of the future”. She was also recognised by Singapore Business Review as one of Singapore’s “20 Most Influential Lawyers 40 and Under 2017”.
Thank you again Alcina for accepting our interview despite having a new baby! Congratulations! To kick things off, what made you choose to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
Well, the reasons why I decided to study law when I was 18 are quite different from the reasons why I still choose to be a lawyer today! When I was 18, I wanted to go into foreign policy and thought that – following in the footsteps of Mr Tommy Koh – studying law would put me in good stead for that career. After studying law and having practised for a few years, what keeps me going is the enjoyment I get from my work. There is something to be said about the invigorating adrenaline rush from making submissions in Court, and the immense satisfaction from getting a good result for the client.
Wow Tommy Koh, he is clearly inspiring – so what made you move into where you are working as now?
It is now my 7th year with TKQP (wow!). I interned with TKQP when I was in law school, managed to secure a training contract, and have stayed on ever since! One of the things that I really appreciate is that the firm is very invested in its people – as a junior lawyer I was grateful for the opportunities to develop my practice – whether it was getting to argue contested applications in Court, or going out to network and build business relationships.
Do you see any skills/mindset that you have as a lawyer that is applicable across all professions?
As lawyers, and especially litigators like myself, we have to deal with people from all walks of life and from diverse industries. When you get a brief, there are often time sensitivities, and quite apart from the legalities of the case, you have to quickly understand the nature of your client’s business, and the commercial interests at stake. You also need to keep in mind the big picture when it comes to things like litigation strategy, but have an eye for detail in things like legal analysis. I think these skills are applicable across all professions.
What do you think is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The fact that doing your best is sometimes not enough.
What do you think are some of the common misconceptions about being a lawyer?
Some people think that lawyers always need to be aggressive in Court to win but that’s not the case. (yes!) Sometimes being too aggressive can have the opposite effect. A good lawyer can be persuasive and effective without being aggressive all the time.
Any legal issues or area do you think will become more significant in the future?
I think with Singapore’s aging population, legal issues that affect the elderly will only become more important. For example, mental capacity issues – how do we help elderly persons whose family members are not suitable to make decisions on their behalf, or who may have been unduly influenced to change their will or make gifts to others? There have already been important developments in this area, such as the amendments to the Mental Capacity Act, and the plans to establish a Seniors’ Court, but I think we will see continued growth in this area of the law moving forward.
What other skills do you think young lawyers need to stay relevant in the future?
For junior lawyers today and in future, the challenge will be how to value add. With the growth of legal technology, many tasks and responsibilities which have been traditionally taken on by junior lawyers will increasingly be taken over by automated processes and/or artificial intelligence (AI). One of the early lessons I learnt is that even as a junior lawyer you have to think about each case and be as invested as if you were the first chair. I think that it is important for junior lawyers, now more than ever before, to think about not only the legal issues of a case, but also about the commercial interests of the parties. Soft skills, such as client management, marketing and business development, must also be honed.
Has anything changed since you have been recognised as one of the 40 most influential lawyers under 40?
I was honoured to receive the recognition by the Singapore Business Review as one of Singapore’s “20 most influential lawyers aged 40 and under 2017”. Such recognition has only encouraged me to want to continue delivering good work.
Any advice you might have for aspiring lawyers?
In the beginning, the learning curve is steep and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by burgeoning tasks but don’t be too discouraged! As you get more experienced, you will get better at your job and managing your time. Remember that a legal career is a marathon and not a race!
Because lawyers are human beings too, could you share with Asia Law Network three fun facts about yourself?
I recently became a mum to a baby girl in February! I must say that being a mother is definitely more challenging than being a lawyer, but is also incredibly gratifying.
I love design – I used to design collegiate t-shirts in law school and designed my own wedding invitations and stationery. Recently I’ve taken to home design and decorating my home with plants and art! (wow!)
I love discovering new places to eat and drink! My favourites are those hole-in-the-wall eateries off the beaten track!
Thank you Alcina for sharing with us some photos of her off work!
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