More lawyers would not encourage their children to become lawyers: Poll

Lawyers being called to the Bar at the Supreme Court auditorium in August. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

SINGAPORE - A poll of nearly 300 lawyers found fewer than half said they would encourage their children to take up law as a career, reversing the result of a similar poll last year.

In 2021, some 77 per cent of lawyers said they would advise their children to go into law, but the figure fell to 48 per cent in 2022, with the “nays” adding up to 52 per cent.

The poll also found nearly six out of 10 respondents listed digitalisation as the development most likely to impact their firms in the future. Globalisation was the second-most cited factor, chosen by about 34 per cent of respondents.

The Singapore’s Best Law Firms 2023 survey of lawyers and clients was devised and conducted by German research firm Statista in conjunction with The Straits Times.

The most common reasons given by those who would not encourage their children included the long and stressful hours in a profession they say is now asking too much of lawyers.

Citing the “crazy hours’’, some said that lawyers are increasingly viewed as service providers and not given the respect for their vocation, and suggested there are easier ways to make a living.

One said “no” because he “is a good parent”, another said there were too many lawyers, while a third cited the high attrition rate.

On the upside, those who said “yes” felt it was fulfilling and challenging, and a very interesting way to earn a living.

One said “the profession has been good” to him, another said it was “full of fun and possibilities”, and a third noted that it was a family tradition.

The question drew answers from 297 respondents.

Responding to the findings, Law Society president Adrian Tan said: “The law is a demanding profession. It was tough to practise law during the lockdown, and it has become tougher even after the lockdown.

“Clients and the legal system are squeezing lawyers in various areas, from imposing shorter timelines to choking them on fees. In turn, lawyers find themselves having to compromise in other aspects of their lives.

“Given the increased pressures placed on lawyers today, it’s understandable if parents may not be so keen for their children to enter the industry. Being a lawyer means that you have a chance to serve others in need and to make a difference. But it also means stress and sacrifice.”

Former Law Society president Peter Low, whose two daughters are lawyers, said circumstances play a part in career choice. He pointed to his own generation 50 years ago, when opportunities were limited.

“Law is a calling, a profession and holds you in good stead for life, even if you go into some other line later in life,” he said. “I find satisfaction in adding value to people’s lives, such as in the litigation work I do.”

On the other hand, lawyer Peter Ong Lip Cheng said his two sons had internships in his office but chose not to study law, even with the promise of a lifelong job. 

Polled on the problems facing the legal practice today, the largest number of lawyers, 58 per cent, cited unreasonable clients, up from 51 per cent in 2021. Some 41 per cent cited unprofessional lawyers, up from 36 per cent in 2021. Unreasonable clients and unprofessional lawyers were also the most cited problems in 2021.

Separately, nearly all the 349 clients and in-house counsel who responded said professional competence and industry knowledge were the most important criteria when choosing a law firm. Some 54 per cent said the hourly rates were important, while 44 per cent said recommendations were important when making a choice.

Five findings from lawyers’ poll

1. Aspects that clients should consider when choosing a firm:

  • Professional competence, industry knowledge, specialisation (99 per cent of respondents)
  • Hourly rates (54 per cent)

2. Biggest problems in the legal practice:

  • Unreasonable clients (58 per cent)
  • Unprofessional lawyers (41 per cent)

3. Most influential developments for law firms in coming years:

  • Digitalisation (54 per cent)
  • Globalisation (34 per cent)

4. Would you advise your child to pursue a career in law?

  • Yes (48 per cent)
  • No (52 per cent)

5. Keeping in mind service needs, how often did clients or in-house counsel change lawyers on average over 10 years?

  • No change (48 per cent)
  • One to three times (43 per cent)

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