Having been a corporate communications practitioner for 6-7 years, Jasmine intrigued us with this bold mid career move to become a lawyer. Imagine our delight when Jasmine agreed to share with us her motivations and journey!
After graduating from the Singapore Management University (with magna cum laude) and completing Part B of the Singapore Bar Examinations (ranked joint fourth of the cohort), Jasmine joined the litigation practice of one of the leading Singapore law firms. There, she was trained to be a disputes lawyer with a focus on arbitration and construction disputes. Now, she is a part of the dynamic and creative legal team at Taylor Vinters Via.
Thank you for agreeing to this Jasmine, could you share with us what made you move being a corporate communications practitioner to being a lawyer?
When I was 18 and being an Arts Student, I was deliberating between applying to NUS law school and NTU Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information. Then I was inspired by a Chinese writer called Lu Xun. He quit being a doctor to write because he believes that it is more important to fix the souls of the people than to cure them of their physical illnesses. His belief resonated with me and I decided that I want to be a reporter, a communicator and an advocate too. And to be honest, the media school’s curriculum appeared to be more fun than law school’s and that was also a critical consideration!
However, even after working for a couple of years as a corporate communications practitioner, the question of “what if” constantly bugs me. In order to find out more about the “what if” and live the other reality that could have been, I decided to take a leap of faith and went back to school.
Wow, that is really a bold move! Could you share with us what drives you today as a lawyer?
I particularly relish the rigours of practice and the fact that I’m constantly kept on my toes. To me, every piece of work has been intellectually engaging and I enjoy the mental gymnastics thinking of what the law is, should be or could be. In short, it is fun and that is what drives me today.
It also helps that Taylor Vinters Via LLC truly believes in work-life effectiveness and my bosses are generally understanding and flexible. Working in a firm that believes in helping its people build a sustainable legal practice has definitely helped to prevent burnouts early in my career.
It is refreshing to hear that the mental gymnastics keeps you excited and engaged! Did you face any particular challenge that stands out to you when you made this mid-career change?
Having been a corporate practitioner for 6-7 years, I was becoming better at what I was doing and my colleagues and clients similarly acknowledged my work and the effort I put in. Therefore, my biggest challenge as a mid-career switcher and a junior lawyer is the sheer fact that I am a greenhorn all over again and I have to relearn the ropes from scratch. Of course, this challenge is not unsurmountable. I simply need to recalibrate my attitude toward learning and remember to be humble at all times.
If you were to name one thing, in your perspective, what is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I’ve come to realise that it is never that straightforward when a client comes to you with a problem. The problem that the client brings to the table is often the tip of the iceberg only. In order to craft a legally and commercially sound solution most suitable for the client, we need to uncover the client’s real interests beneath that tip. Sometimes, you may not have built sufficient rapport with the client for him to tell you his real interests from the beginning; sometimes, the client himself does not know where his real interests lie or that he is unable to articulate his real interests. However, there is little meaning in tacking a problem but not addressing the client’s real interests or needs. Therefore, the most challenging aspect of my work is to uncover the client’s real interests beneath the surface.
Do you see any skills/mindsets that a lawyer should have that is applicable across all professions?
A lawyer is trained to think critically and analytically, and to be solutions-oriented. Such soft skills are important and valued across all professions.
What do you think are some of the misconceptions about being a lawyer?
It is nothing like Suits. It is not all wine, golf and glamour. Until I joined the industry, I did not realise and could not empathize with the insanely long hours that a lawyer claims he put in (especially the junior members in the team).
Also, it definitely takes more than a gift of the gab to be a good lawyer.
What are some of the issues do you think will become more significant to the legal industry in the future?
Disruptive technology is shaking up the legal industry and is here to stay. We need to be less responsive to technological trends and more proactive in future proofing our industry and work. For example, robot journalism is picking up in countries such as South Korea. For articles generated by computer programs or artificial intelligence, does copyright subsist? Who owns the copyright? The robot, the programmer or the publisher? If the copyright of the article lasts 70 years after the death of the author, how do we calculate the duration of protection if the author is not human? Our legal concept of who or what constitute authorship may have to change with time. (wow! this is truly an issue we have to think about)
Next, I believe that law is a social product yet socially constituting. It is indisputable that laws morph with the passage of time. While I strongly believe that the laws should adapt to present circumstances to remain relevant for its users, I also think that it is important for the law makers to find the delicate balance among conflicting domestic voices, diverse international trends, cherished legal traditions and rooted societal customs. The need to calibrate a balance will become more significant with active citizenry who are increasingly impatient and calling for immediate change.
Wow, robot journalism – it is true that technology is changing the landscape drastically. Could you share with us what other skills do you think young lawyers need to have to stay relevant in the future?
I think having knowledge of another field of study, be it biology or economics, or being proficient in another language can value add to your legal career more than you can imagine. Besides hard skills, it is important to be resilient, be creative, be adaptable, and be humble. If you have these attributes, you will learn to stay relevant against all odds.
Any advice you have for aspiring lawyers?
Practice law only if it is what you think you would love to do. There’s no driver that can drive you more than passion.
Also, to cite Minor Myers, Jr “Go forth and do well. But, more importantly, go forth and do good.”
Now onto the fun stuff – could you share with us three fun facts about yourself?
I love the theatre. I used to direct plays and write scripts in my younger days. Now I enjoy being a good audience and try to support local productions. Just recently, I watched a play titled “Late Company” by Pangdemonium and it was very enjoyable.
I think it is a privilege to volunteer and I try to exercise that privilege in my spare time. Just a simple act such as delivering food to the less mobile elderly can really make a difference in the recipient’s life.
I enjoy hiking although I will have sore muscles for weeks after a hike. The breath-taking view on top of a mountain after a long tiring hike is a reward like no other. I strongly recommend it! (wow!)
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.