Support from family and friends helps

 Lawyers outside the State Courts.
Lawyers outside the State Courts.PHOTO: ST FILE

While many mid-career lawyers are dropping out, some that stay on are thriving.

Mr Napolean Rafflesson Koh is eight years into his career and in July, the 32-year-old was made a partner at RHTLaw Taylor Wessing, which he joined two years ago as a senior associate.

Mr Koh, who specialises in building construction, infrastructure and engineering disputes, graduated in 2009 from the National University of Singapore and worked at WongPartnership, one of Singapore's Big Four law firms, for the first five years of his career.

He acknowledged that the job comes with a steep learning curve. Shortly after being called to the Bar in 2009, he had to fly to the Middle East every two weeks to help resolve an airport dispute.

"Lawyers need a lot of good support from their families, friends and the work environment," said Mr Koh, adding that his parents saw him off at the airport every time he had to go overseas.

He said the job got easier after the first three years when he better understood his work, learnt how to better achieve his targets in terms of billable hours and how to better handle clients.

It also helped that he got to practise an area of law that he preferred.

Mr Koh developed an interest in construction law after having been an intern on the construction team at an international law firm in 2005.

Given the amount of time spent at the office, he believes it is essential that the workplace be a "collegiate" environment.

"It's important to have a network of friends who understand what you're going through and whom you're able to share your problems with," said Mr Koh, who is single.

He said young lawyers should not dwell too much on trying to achieve work-life balance.

"Work is very much a big part of who you are.

"If you don't try to differentiate between your work and private life, I think it makes things easier."

He admitted though that the long hours could take their toll.

"Sometimes, you have to stay past midnight for months on end," he said, adding that lawyers needed to learn how to pace themselves so as not to get burned out.

"If you can go home early, just go home."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 04, 2016, with the headline 'Support from family and friends helps'. Print Edition | Subscribe