Sunday, April 19, 2009

Reader's Question: 2009 Salaries For Newly Qualifed Lawyers


In relation to this:
A. Wonder if there is any truth or merit to the figures posted?
B. Are young lawyers really willing to sacrifice all their waking hours for a few hundred/thousand dollars more?

Read more about the above question here.


In the past, the United Kingdom Singapore Law Students Society used to publish detailed statistics about the salary and benefit packages offered by law firms to pupils offered retention contracts. This was useful not just to law graduates or pupils admitted to the profession but employers within the profession. I don't think the UKSLSS does so any more. I intend to write to the Law Society of Singapore to see if their Young Lawyers Committee can look into doing so. I think it is important to give young lawyers access to such information, at least in the first three years of legal practice.

The figures provided by me earlier are based on information received from current pupils at the firms or announcements made by these firms at public events. This is a developing story. Some of these figures were revised by the firms and an update was given here.

Most firms are paying their newly qualified lawyers between $3,500 - $4,500 per month. Successful boutique practices lead the pack in paying such lawyers more than what they would get in a large firm, since these practices will not be able to match the additional benefits that large firms provide. An exception is Tan Peng Chin LLC, which I understand is offering its newly qualified lawyers $3,200 per month.

I stand by my earlier position. A young lawyer receiving offers of less than $4,000 should consider alternative careers in public service or other positions in the private sector. They will probably be paid similarly, and will also be in a better position to pursue their respective interests.

They should also ask themselves if law is really what they want to do. If they do wish to court the law, a lower starting salary is a good trade-off to make for the experience to be gained. However, they should not let employers offering legal work experience exploit them, since there are several employers in the profession that appear to have no qualms doing so.

This year, I understand the Legal Service has received unprecedented applications from young lawyers. It is likely that these young lawyers have chosen this option because it has now become a good substitute to a career in the private sector. It will be interesting to see if they choose to remain public servants when the market picks up.


Firstly, it's not a "few hundred/thousand dollars more". It is not unheard of successful practices to pay between 3 - 9 months in bonuses, if not more. Based on current figures, this works out between $12,000 and $48,000 per year.

Plus, these firms provide a range of benefits including annual leave of over 21 days; medical and other health benefits such as use of a fitness centre; memberships to exclusive clubs like Zouk; and various other allowances for mobile phone, clothes, etc.

Having a strong firm name on your resume also helps if one is thinking of future career progression like joining an offshore law firm or an employer of similar standing.

Naturally, this attracts many persons into the law and to these firms. Some may argue that these are the wrong reasons to join the profession and that law graduates should look beyond the material. But I don't see this trend changing. The longer I am in the legal profession, the more I realise that this has to do with the kind of persons that our law schools admit and the pragmatic indoctrination that a Singapore education system provides.

Secondly, despite the carrots that successful practices offer, there are young lawyers who join the profession for something more or who opt not to "sacrifice all their waking hours for a few hundred/thousand dollars more".

Unfortunately, these young lawyers are in the minority.

These lawyers more often than not join the public service or a law firm that offers lower perks and better working hours. If they do join the latter, they tend to go to a law firm with a track record for valuing and taking care of their young lawyers. But what a pity it is that these other law firms are not doing enough to reach out early to such young persons joining the profession.

Dharmendra Yadav

Please consider the environment. Do you really need to print this?


Max NG said...

just some further comments; young lawyers do yourself a disservice when you select a position based on pay and benefits. Trust me, none of that will sustain you in the long run. Those who want a long-term career in law, would do better to speak to those who have been in the profession for more than 10 years...

Anonymous said...

tan peng chin offers $4500-4700.

sookzhenng said...

hey dharm!

what do you think of colin ng... this is random, but I'm thinking of applying to firms before i leave for exchange so i'll be on time... you reckon they will consider even taking in 2011 grads?
sorry for troubling you for career advice, but chanced upon your blog... pretty neat!