The Law Society of Singapore sets up Women in Practice task force to address inequities still present in the legal industry

Bizibody has always been an advocate for inclusiveness and, in fact, has a number of employees (both male and female) with flexible work arrangements in order to manage family, health and other matters while continuing to work. We use technology as much as we can to automate our work, manage our tasks and collaborate on projects. We believe that play is as important as work, and have just implemented a 4.5 day work week to reflect this.

As such, we were delighted to be a part of the Law Society of Singapore’s launch event for their Women in Practice Taskforce (WIP), initiated by Law Society President Gregory Vijayendran, set up to identify and address challenges faced by female lawyers in the workplace, with the intention of supporting female lawyers to stay in practice.

Gregory kicked off the event with a warm welcome, acknowledging that while women are relatively well represented in practice overall, the numbers significantly drop at the more senior level. He noted that as a profession, we “are doing well, but we can do better”, and invited all practitioners, male and female, to work together to support female lawyers overcome the challenges that keep them from staying in practice. He expressed confidence that the WIP will be instrumental in facilitating this process. He ended by affirming “you’re going to make it”.

This was followed by the an opening address by Ms Indranee Rajah, SC, Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC. She acknowledged the challenges faced by women, being traditionally the primary caregivers at home, whether for children or aging parents. Her advice to women who wish to get ahead in their careers:

  1. Be an authority in your area of practice; know your subject matter well, it is not enough to be able to repeat what’s in the books; be prepared to analyse it and express your opinion on it.
  2. Put yourself out there, show your worth, market yourself. To do this, you will need to “overcome the intangibles” – our upbringing that espouses women be modest, strong women are often labeled negatively; it is important to stay focused on what’s important to you (men are labelled too).
  3. Find your “personal brand”, what it is that defines you. To do this you must understand your strengths and weaknesses; play to your strengths.
  4. Avail yourself of government support for work life – grants, child care leave (for both husband and wife).
  5. Use technology as much as you can to manage your work-life balance.

Marina Tan, Joint Managing Partner of Tan Kok Quan Partnership, then shared her perspective. She emphasised that as women, we have choices, and we need to start by asking “how do you want to define yourself?”. The choice to include a career in legal practice entails making other choices in our personal life. We have our own unique DNA – what are we good at? What do we enjoy doing? Choose the area of practice that suits your talents and disposition, and choose a work environment that supports that. Marina is certainly a great example of what’s possible for women in practice.

The evening concluded with a panel discussion chaired by Kuah Boon Theng, titled Women in Practice: A Work in Progress. It was an interesting exchange from the different perspectives of the various panelists:

– Delphine Loo, CEO of the Law Society of Singapore, shared her journey as a young mother in practice, and her current flexible work arrangement at the Law Society;

– Rachel Eng, Deputy Chairman of WongPartnership LLC, shared both her personal experiences as well as the firm culture with regard to the challenges of women in practice, and how the firm had an open door policy to discuss alternative work arrangements, so as to retain talent;

– Christine Low, Director at Peter Low & Choo LLC, provided the younger lawyers’ perspective, and the need for work-life balance to maintain a social life and outside interests; and

– Thio Shen Yi, Joint Managing Partner at TSMP Law Corporation, encouraged women to “scale down” when needed, but “stay in the game”, as it is always possible to stay in the game. He also noted a “confidence gap” between men and women, and urged women to recognise their abilities and put themselves forward to seize opportunities that present themselves.

Happy International Women’s Day!