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  #301 (permalink)  
Old 23-11-2014, 01:52 AM
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since it is peak season to apply for TCs and given that there are so many seasoned lawyers hanging around here - i thought i would take the opportunity to ask some questions that you can't usually get away with in normal interviews.

1. how is the culture in a big 4 firm like? does it differ drastically from the mid firms (e.g. Rodyk, Shook Lin, TSMP)?
i understand that most of the time it really does differ from team to team; i've had amazing internships with X team in A firm, while most of my peers found said firm to be off-putting. but i was hoping that someone could possibly give just a bit of insight into their department/firm, if that is even possible.

2. is it a better idea to do your training at a big4 firm > the other big-mid firms? in terms of exposure to more interesting work and deals, working under more experienced partners, better resources, etc. does it really make a difference?

3. any general advice for someone looking to gain a place in corp/M&A and within a big 4 firm.

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  #302 (permalink)  
Old 23-11-2014, 10:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
since it is peak season to apply for TCs and given that there are so many seasoned lawyers hanging around here - i thought i would take the opportunity to ask some questions that you can't usually get away with in normal interviews.

1. how is the culture in a big 4 firm like? does it differ drastically from the mid firms (e.g. Rodyk, Shook Lin, TSMP)?
i understand that most of the time it really does differ from team to team; i've had amazing internships with X team in A firm, while most of my peers found said firm to be off-putting. but i was hoping that someone could possibly give just a bit of insight into their department/firm, if that is even possible.

2. is it a better idea to do your training at a big4 firm > the other big-mid firms? in terms of exposure to more interesting work and deals, working under more experienced partners, better resources, etc. does it really make a difference?

3. any general advice for someone looking to gain a place in corp/M&A and within a big 4 firm.
hello! I can't really give advice on the first two as I'm still a student but on the third I can. I got offered a spot in m&a in one of the big4 last week (but I didn't take it as I'm heading to an international firm) and I have another friend who got the same spot and a few others who are still waiting. Here are some common points that I saw:

1. Internship definitely matters. If you aren't applying for TCs in this cycle (if you are, its too late for internships except for the two big 4 that aren't officially open yet). Firms definitely use the internship as a starting point for assessment. That said though I don't think the lack of an internship severely disadvantages you as I got my other offer without having done an internship with the firm.

2. Everyone who applies has a good gpa, however as a general rule (I've seen this repeatedly for different firms) they will interview (and offer) those with higher gpas first. The difference is rather stark; My friend (who got the offer) and I are in the top 15-20% and we got interviews within the first week, our other friend in the 20-30% range got theirs 3 weeks after (with offers at that point already having been given out). So be realistic with your chances.

3. At this point in the application cycle I strongly believe that most of the spots in the m&a department in the big4 firm that has been open for some time have been taken up. I think I was one of the last offers (but then that spot wasn't taken up haha). So again be realistic.

4. You definitely want to highlight your interest in the industry. Play up any experience that you may have in commercial matters (you can pm me for details).

5. Be mentally prepared for technical questions. The reason why I added 'mentally' is because there is no way to prepare for these questions. Review your company/ corporate law syllabus but there may be questions beyond. I was asked questions on the Employment Act (and I was applying for m&a) so I believe they are looking for coherence and critical thinking rather than technical ability.

6. You need to know, for yourself, what sets you apart from your peers (you can pm me for details).

Good luck with apps! Having got an offer definitely removed a huge huge load off my shoulders. Good luck with finals too (if youre from a local u)!!

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  #303 (permalink)  
Old 23-11-2014, 01:40 PM
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to answer some of your questions...

1. culture does not differ drastically in terms of "big 4" vs. "non big 4". There is no magical cultural stratification between a big firm and a smaller-big firm; it is simply a matter of headcount. It all comes down to the nature of your practice area, your immediate superior, your deal/case workflow, and your team. Obviously, this does not apply to the really small firms (less than 10 lawyers?). But in terms of your immediate working environment, it is shaped by the team you are working in, and more specifically who you work under.

All big firms will work you to the bone. The nature of some practice groups are that they require longer hours than others. But there are always 2 sides to everything. You may be looking for work life balance, or you may thrive on being involved in many matters and putting in long hours, and learning lots of stuff.


2. all other things being equal, fit is the most important. it is true that a big 4 allows you to work on the biggest named deals around town, but value to your personal training may not necessarily be as impressive as it sounds. think of big firm trainees as a cog in the wheel, as compared to smaller firms where you are given more responsibilities. in a big-mid firm (i.e. say, within the top 10 by headcount), you are still a cog in the wheel, so go for the biggest if you really want to be a cog (i say this with no cynicism whatsoever - i am currently a cog). go to the place where you like the environment and people if you value happiness over prestige.

3. your grades matters most. and any other concrete examples of a sustained interest in a transactional environment, not merely "oh, i took a class on Mergers and Acquisitions last semester and i found it extremely interesting/glamorous/hot!". you will be asked to justify why you ranked the practice as your first choice, so ensure that you can back up your selection with some substance commensurate with the reality of being a student with no actual work experience whatsoever.

finally, i do note that the job market is rather bad for TC places now, given the ruckus raised in the legal community (mostly law students only). if you're applying now, i suppose you are in your penultimate year whether as a local or overseas law student. you need to ask yourself if you really are in a position to pick and choose. the law firms on the other hand, are in the position to cherry pick, and they've made no secret of their obvious delight at this state of affairs. i understand it will be tough. if your grades are stellar, you should have no worries.

P.S.: i'm too lazy to create an account so if you want some follow up on my answers, just quote me in this thread and i'll respond.

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  #304 (permalink)  
Old 24-11-2014, 01:45 AM
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Just wanted to ask if you sign a training contract with a firm, is it binding, i.e., can you still look for other opportunities? Or accept another TC for that matter.
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  #305 (permalink)  
Old 25-11-2014, 01:02 AM
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Just wanted to ask if you sign a training contract with a firm, is it binding, i.e., can you still look for other opportunities? Or accept another TC for that matter.
Haha. You are a law student right??? you tell me whether a contract is binding when you sign on it leh. be confident of your knowledge - you will be advising real life clients next time! The principles of contract law don't change just because it is a real life contract and not something out of your casebook.

Gentle ribbing aside, the question is whether there is any thing worth enforcing in the contract. look at the terms of the contract, in particular penalties & claw backs (for stipend).

you will be comforted to know that breaking TC contracts is a frequent practice with no repercussion. if you can think of doing it, rest assured you're not the first to have done it. break away, you little rascal
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  #306 (permalink)  
Old 25-11-2014, 11:55 AM
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These are hard times for the young ones. I remember when I did my interview and my boss asked me "why this practice area?" I remember replying "Actually, I don't really know what I want, but I've got to start somewhere and I thought this was as good a place as any other."

I had zero internships and no work experience or uni modules to suggest that I was remotely keen on that practice group or any other for that matter. Everything on my CV and in my interview reflected a whole lot of apathy and a lack of direction. Despite my crappy answer, I was hired on the spot.

Five years on, I'm still here - happy, contented and looking to stay for the next ten years. On the other hand, many of those who showed lots of zest and fire at the interviews have burned out and left the industry. It's the luck of the draw really. Many partners here are exasperated that they can't seem to hold on to their associates for even just two years. It just goes to show how effective the interview process is. It's all a big gamble for the employers, and there is every likelihood that your most promising candidate could turn out to be a total disappointment, or leave for an international firm and a bigger paycheck within a year.

And this makes me wonder: perhaps an interviewer should take everything a zesty candidate says with a pinch of salt. I have seen so many associates who initially showed lots of enthusiasm and interest in a particular practice harbour a whole bunch of unrealistic expectations and fall into the trap of disillusionment when he/she realises that practice and everyday work just isn't as glamourous or fun as once imagined. Conversely, someone with a complete lack of direction might just be more open to whatever comes, and find satisfaction when it does.

Just a little muse for employers in here to think about.
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  #307 (permalink)  
Old 25-11-2014, 02:48 PM
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It is heartening to know you are content. I do believe that it is your immediate mentor or team which plays a huge role in determining whether you stay on for the first few years.

I am probably just slightly older than you and it was really an employee's market back then. How times have changed.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
These are hard times for the young ones. I remember when I did my interview and my boss asked me "why this practice area?" I remember replying "Actually, I don't really know what I want, but I've got to start somewhere and I thought this was as good a place as any other."

I had zero internships and no work experience or uni modules to suggest that I was remotely keen on that practice group or any other for that matter. Everything on my CV and in my interview reflected a whole lot of apathy and a lack of direction. Despite my crappy answer, I was hired on the spot.

Five years on, I'm still here - happy, contented and looking to stay for the next ten years. On the other hand, many of those who showed lots of zest and fire at the interviews have burned out and left the industry. It's the luck of the draw really. Many partners here are exasperated that they can't seem to hold on to their associates for even just two years. It just goes to show how effective the interview process is. It's all a big gamble for the employers, and there is every likelihood that your most promising candidate could turn out to be a total disappointment, or leave for an international firm and a bigger paycheck within a year.

And this makes me wonder: perhaps an interviewer should take everything a zesty candidate says with a pinch of salt. I have seen so many associates who initially showed lots of enthusiasm and interest in a particular practice harbour a whole bunch of unrealistic expectations and fall into the trap of disillusionment when he/she realises that practice and everyday work just isn't as glamourous or fun as once imagined. Conversely, someone with a complete lack of direction might just be more open to whatever comes, and find satisfaction when it does.

Just a little muse for employers in here to think about.
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  #308 (permalink)  
Old 30-11-2014, 05:25 AM
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(1) how is a LLM/BCL from Cambridge/Oxford viewed in Singapore?
(2) is it advisable to do the LLM/BCL directly after the LLB? Or is it better to get called first?
(3) would the LLM/BCL enhance your legal career? If heading towards a non-academia route.
(4) if you have a LLM/BCL offer but cannot get funding, is it advisable to still take it up (loans, etc)?
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  #309 (permalink)  
Old 30-11-2014, 11:05 AM
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My personal views (and I am sure others will have their own as well) are:

(1) The qualifications are nice to have and may open doors - there's still the "if you are good enough for Cambridge and Oxford, you are good enough for us" sentiment around. If you already have a training contract, then that consideration isn't so relevant. Your typical partner will probably still assess you based on the quality of your work.

(2) In light of the above, I would probably want to get called first. Further, most salaries in Singapore and international firms tend to be pegged to PQE. I have the impression some people would take a break and pursue an LLM after a few years of legal practice. I would do so too if I am keen and do not mind not drawing a salary. However, your priorities may have changed by then e.g. you may be in the running for partnership and chasing an LLM is not going to help.

(3) I don't think so. Your legal career is based on your performance at work, not so much academic qualifications. I am speaking only based on my own experience in a large Singapore firm. I am not sure how other firms or the Legal Service will view such qualifications.

(4) No. Well, not me at least.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Unregistered View Post
(1) how is a LLM/BCL from Cambridge/Oxford viewed in Singapore?
(2) is it advisable to do the LLM/BCL directly after the LLB? Or is it better to get called first?
(3) would the LLM/BCL enhance your legal career? If heading towards a non-academia route.
(4) if you have a LLM/BCL offer but cannot get funding, is it advisable to still take it up (loans, etc)?
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  #310 (permalink)  
Old 30-11-2014, 04:58 PM
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The BCL is a very very prestigious degree although it is somewhat suited more for those who wants to branch into academia. An LLM or BCL of that prestige would give you a leg up if you are fresh out of law school gunning for the big firms and your LLB was from a "lesser" uni. Otherwise, there isn't much reason to pursue it other than pure interest in the study of law. Lets just face it: Law is all about prestige and names....


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